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Enhancing Maritime Safety Through Visualization

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By Frédéric Houbie 2019-04-06 21:59:17

Oceans and seas cover 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. Humans use this landscape for defense, commerce, transportation, offshore drilling, research, environmental cleanup, and much more – with as many as 180,000 large ships at sea at any given moment. 
 
This number continues to rise with the amount of ships traversing our oceans increasing by 60 percent between 1992 and 2012. A newer study also found that Canadian Arctic shipping traffic nearly tripled between 1990 and 2015. In addition, according to the IMO, maritime shipping supports about 90 percent of global trade.  

To help best manage these traffic increases, today’s maritime organization are relying more on satellite imagery from Automatic Identification Systems (AIS), which were designed to better identify vessels and enhance collision avoidance. 

These systems provide information that includes unique identification, course, speed and position, and are increasingly becoming more automated. 

While these systems are in place, there are still major collisions that happen today. In October of 2018, two ships collided in the Mediterranean, causing a massive fuel spill near the island of Corsica. Major maritime events like this reinforce the need for access to real-time shipping data for mitigating future collisions in the increasingly crowded oceans.  

Onboard AIS data combined with maritime radar certainly helps with the collision challenge, but there is much more information to be gathered by visualizing millions of vessel plot positions and analyzing the data worldwide. Where are collisions most prevalent? Why? How can this data help us target suspicious activities? How do we keep track of ever-expanding shipping routes? This is increasingly becoming more difficult as the demand for global trade increases, driving an exponential increase in the amount of maritime data. 

Rise of Data Analytics and Visualization

From onboard and fishery surveillance to coast guard systems to waterway management to pollution tracking, data analytic and visualization solutions help ensure the safety of our seas, while also aiding global commerce and product distribution.

Whether it’s for national hydrographic organizations, commercial chart producers, or naval command or freight lines, direct connections to the right maritime data at the right time is essential. 

New innovations in graphics processing and visualization give us the ability to combine real-time data streams like ship positions, navigation patterns and weather, while allowing for easy interaction with the data. As a result, the end-user can quickly analyze the patterns, flag suspicious activity, double-check it against storms and winds, and make real-time decisions. This can lead to increased safety through re-routing vessels or scrambling aircraft to check out suspicious activity. 

Detecting Illegal Fishing Practices

The commercial fishing arena is particularly vulnerable to fraud aimed at circumventing regulations based on quota pricing. Monitoring AIS plays a key role in helping authorities to understand suspicious behaviors by ships and define illegal fishing control policies.

A dynamic data interface can help authorities to visualize and analyze complex data sets, while traversing space and across time. Sophisticated algorithms and live visualization of additional data layers that can be filtered to identify and analyze suspicious behaviors, as well as track international fishery policy zones.  

Tracking and Creating New Arctic Shipping Routes

With the Arctic region becoming more of a commercially viable shipping route during the summer months, new solutions can help to best create routes that minimize the impact of large marine ecosystems and track all other shipping traffic in the region. 

These solutions can also integrate data on wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, and water temperature from weather stations across the Arctic. Ultimately, this provides a complete view of all shipping and fishing activity in the Arctic – allowing for the safest and most effective route creation while minimizing the noise and pollutant exposure of protected habitats

Looking Ahead 

As our oceans become more crowded, connecting, visualizing, and analyzing AIS data, weather, nautical charts and other data sources in their native formats without pre-processing, will become even more vital. The ability to access real-time data will play a key role in ensuring that our oceans are not only safe, but also highly productive for keeping our global economy vibrant. 

Frédéric Houbie is a Senior Product Manager at Hexagon’s Geospatial Division.
 

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.