World Maritime Day 2017 was celebrated on September 28 with the theme of “Connecting Ships, Ports and People.” ITU makes a tangible contribution to the development of maritime communications systems, which connect all players of the maritime ecosystem, by providing frequency spectrum, developing standards for maritime communications and producing a number of key publications and databases, such as the Maritime mobile Access and Retrieval System (MARS) database.
At the ITU-R Pavilion on the ITU Telecom World 2017, this important work was on display and copies of the key manuals were on sale at the ITU Bookshop.
Here are 6 ways ICTs play an important role in modern shipping:
- Allocating frequency spectrum for maritime communications
Frequency spectrum is fuel for any radio system. Since 1906 ITU has been providing the necessary frequency resource for emerging maritime radio technologies at the quadrennial World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs). For instance, the WRC in 2012 (WRC-12) opened high frequency bands for digital data transmissions enabling transfer of computer files between ships and shore, which may facilitate sending reports and other data from fishing vessels to their parent companies at ports.
The last WRC in 2015 (WRC-15) allocated spectrum around 161 MHz for new Automatic Identification System (AIS) to improve the safety of navigation, and also provided additional frequencies around 7 GHz for the next-generation satellites used for maritime communications. In addition, this conference removed congestion in on-board communications in the UHF band.
- Radio navigation services for greener and smarter shipping
Ships have long been using radios to communicate with shore and other vessels, which can assist in determining the optimal and most economical routes.
Radionavigation-satellite service (RNSS) is an essential part of navigation at sea. This radio communication service operates in accordance with the rules established in ITU’s Radio Regulations (RR), which govern the use of radio frequency spectrum and harmonize the usage of frequency bands. A prominent example of an RNSS application is the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) such as Galileo, GLONASS, Beidou, GPS and some others.
GNSS systems have revolutionized navigation and the determination of exact positional information worldwide. They can provide the crew with real-time position information on board ships and aircraft down to a few meters accuracy.
- Online maritime database
ITU’s Maritime mobile Access and Retrieval System (MARS) is an online maritime database system that allows users to access detailed information on onboard radio communications systems, including emergency contacts ashore, 24-hour emergency phone numbers and onboard satellite terminal numbers, radio call signs and access codes such as the MMSI and telex identities. The information is updated on a daily basis.
The website also provides key operational information i.e. particulars of Coast stations, search and rescue aircraft and radio aids to navigation. Searching engines fields selected according to preferences of the users provides easy access to the information, such as MMSIs, Call Signs, and information regarding different ways to reach a ship at sea. Concerning coast stations and Rescue Coordination Centres (RCC), it is easy to find their characteristics such as watch frequencies, services covered such as medical advice and hours of watch.
- Radio communications are fundamental to safety at sea
Having a reliable means of communications plays a key role in the safety of maritime traffic. For decades, ship captains depended on radios as means for necessary communication and coordination – declaring travel intentions and avoiding collisions. Radios must work seamlessly to ensure safety on land and at sea.
The ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) works to ensure safety for seafarers by playing a crucial role to determine the technical and operational procedures for radio services. The (GMDSS) is an international system developed through IMO and the ITU that operates using terrestrial and satellite radio technologies on board ships and on shore. The system alerts shore-based rescue and communications personnel via the coast radio station or RCC in cases of distress and emergency, and notifies vessels in the vicinity of survivors to provide the necessary assistance.
- Internet of Things (IoT) provides real-time metrics
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a key area of growth in business and industry and now it is impacting the maritime sector to make shipping more efficient with the help of connected sensors and unified platforms allowing the real-time monitoring of systems on board the ship.
IoT-based solutions can monitor variables including location, temperature, shock, tilt, humidity, and pressure in seafaring vessels and send this information to control centers or shipping company offices. They may also be integrated into cargo systems such as refrigerated containers to allow the real-time monitoring of the product by the shipper. Data and information can be optimized and sent in real-time to captains, crew members, other vessels in the network, and shipping companies on land.
- Cloud, the next wave of innovation
Emerging technologies such as cloud computing are playing an increasingly important role in maritime logistics and transport. Applying cloud-based solutions in conjunction with high-speed data links via satellite helps to connect vessels at sea with port operations ashore, maintenance service providers, as well as transportation partners. It will allow stakeholders to access and share data stored in the cloud and provides insights based on comprehensive information.