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Minimising Risk When Exploring the Arctic

Image courtesy of Wavefront
Image courtesy of Wavefront

Published Jul 13, 2022 11:44 AM by The Maritime Executive

[By: Wavefront]

The further we travel into unchartered waters, the higher the chance of collision or grounding. The underwater environment is unseen and obstacles lurk just below the surface. The recent Norwegian Sun Cruise incident in Alaska demonstrates just how treacherous our untamed oceans can be.  

While the damage caused after their collision with a 'growler' is a rare occurrence, it has undoubtedly caused the company to lose a lot of money. The Arctic cruise was curtailed and the ship was re-routed to Seattle for repair. This is not the kind of situation any seafaring vessel can afford.  

The upside is that it doesn't need to be this way. There is technology available which allows crews to manage the risks of embarking on discovery voyages, whether it be the icy waters of the Arctic or the warmer Pacific Ocean. 

Traditionally any navigational technology has reflected the above water domain, supplementing the navigating officer's senses with radar and cameras. A reliance on up-to-date charts and ice forecasts is common practice. There is, however, a whole underwater world that is largely ignored. 

It is only in recent years that the use of forward-looking sonar has come into play. FLS systems can significantly reduce underwater objects' risks, whether in a dynamic seabed environment or hidden ice. When developing our own forward-looking sonar product, Vigilant, we researched what sea vessels need to be able to navigate complex and unchartered marine environments, such as the Arctic. It may have been over 100 years ago. Still, the Titanic disaster is a classic example of how badly things can turn out if you aren't aware of what is below the surface. 

This is why Vigilant, developed by Wavefront, has an ice detection capability of between 1000m and 1400m for any icebergs, below the waterline, of around 2m or 1 Tonne in size. This level of detection capability provides ample warning to a ship's crew, even if it is not readily visible above the waves. Forward-looking sonar is undoubtedly a very sound investment for any exploratory cruise ship. It will save companies money by avoiding expensive repairs and out-of-action vessels. But most importantly, it will keep the crew and passengers safe and has the potential to save lives if it prevents collision with an iceberg. 

For more information on the detecting capabilities of forward-looking sonar systems, a paper by Dr. Rob Crook can be found on the Wavefront Systems website.

The products and services herein described in this press release are not endorsed by The Maritime Executive.