A New Zealand company is winning international awards for a development that could prevent accidents like the Rena grounding.
Auckland-based Vesper Marine’s virtual AIS beacon technology has already received multiple international technology and innovation awards this year for the virtual beacon.
Virtual beacons could be used to indicate a number of reefs near Motiti Island.
AIS, which means Automatic Identification System, is required on all ships over 300 tonnes and is a dedicated VHF radio transceiver continually transmitting a ship’s name, course, speed and position, as well as its size.
It receives the same information being transmitted by other ships in its immediate area.
The information is fed to the ship’s electronic chart plotter and collision avoidance system. Typically, a ship’s VHF radio range is 20 miles or more, providing ample time for collision avoidance calculations and implementation long before any collision is imminent.
An AIS transceiver can also be placed on buoys. The buoy marking the underwater Tarapunga Rock near the entrance to Doubtful Sound was unable to survive seven metre seas.
That rock is now marked by the country’s first virtual AIS beacon, a system that can also work for Astrolabe Reef - Schooner Rocks, Brewis Shoal, Okaparu Reef, and other local hazards awaiting the next Rena.
The Virtual AIS Beacon is created by sending a signal from one location to mark a remote point. The remote point displays on the ship’s chart plotter, AIS display or other receiving equipment.
The Tarapunga Rock transmitter is located on nearby Secretary Island. The Astrolabe Reef transmitter could be located on Motiti Island. Cruise ships entering Doubtful Sound can now identify Tarapunga Rock from ten nautical miles out to sea, and about two nautical miles when travelling down the sound towards the Tasman Sea.
Having Astrolabe Reef marked by a virtual AIS beacon would mean that when the Rena’s navigation officer altered course ten degrees to port at about 1.30am on October 5, steering the ship directly at Astrolabe Reef, a virtual AIS beacon would have tripped the ship’s collision alarm while the ship was still 20 miles away and in plenty of time to make a turn.
Vesper Marine also developed the Watchmate AIS collision avoidance system for use on smaller vessels, such as yachts and launches.
On May 30, the company announced its Virtual AIS Beacon for Aids to Navigation was awarded a special commendation at the New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards 2012 in the State Government of Victoria, Australia Innovative Hi-Tech Hardware Product category.
In March, it also received this year’s Professional Mariner Samuel Plimsoll Award for Innovation.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council group manager for water management Eddie Grogan says the council has met with Vesper Marine representatives to discuss the products and what applications they may have for navigational safety in the Bay of Plenty.
“We are always interested in learning more about technology that can help with navigational safety so we talk to a lot of companies about their ideas and products.
“We will be working with central government, other councils and other industry partners to make sure that any systems are integrated and nationally consistent,” says Eddie.