Crisis Management and the Integration of Vessel Tracking Technologies

By David S. Nieri, Technical Advisor, Simulation and Response Management

The implementation of Crisis Management Systems (CMS) designed to respond to situations in ports and waterways, and along our coasts, requires the availability of up-to-date information on the location of resources on-hand and those already deployed. The Crisis Management System (CMS) is a composite of information visualization tools, planning tools, decision-assist utilities, data storage and retrieval systems, communication networks, and personnel well versed in the integration of all components into an effective response.

A Crisis Management System may be integrated with an existing vessel traffic management system or it may be established in the field as a stand-alone when incidents arise that require effectual command and control of response resources. The same AIS (Automated Identification System) technology that will soon form the backbone of a surveillance capability for harbors that implement VTS, can be integrated with elements of a CMS in order to provide accurate, timely tracking of vehicles and vessels involved in an incident response.

This GPS-based technology, which is currently in wide use, may be permanently mounted as ship's equipment or installed on an as-needed basis as portable carry-on units. AIS devices provide all of the information necessary to track and display the location of vessels involved in response to emergencies such as collisions and groundings, spill response operations, large-scale harbor events and festivals, and offshore emergencies such as ship fires and standings, as well as search and rescue efforts in coastal waters. Vessels of all descriptions may be deployed to help control these incidents, and the ability to track resources for purposes of coordination and planning is a key part of the Crisis Management process. The information that AIS on-board devices provide (e.g., vessel ID. position) can be plotted in real-time on chart-based displays. This information is critical to the visualization of 'current status' of resources that decision-makers rely on for planning, developing response strategies and managing incidents.

Focusing on the concept of the Crisis Management System (CMS) as a means of dealing with major events and incidents in the maritime environment, there is a great potential for integration of a Crisis Management System with a Vessel Traffic System (VTS) that incorporates an Automated Identification System (AIS) — where response to marine casualties and maritime events require deployment of a full-scale CMS. The capabilities of vehicle tracking systems as a component of both a VTS and a CMS will also be discussed in the context of the IMO recommendations for AIS. the current state of the technology, and previous experience using a portable opportunistic vessel tracking system.

Why a CMS?

The evolution of Crisis Management Systems (CMS) has been fed by numerous events that have taxed the resources of government and industry to respond to many incidents. The need to move the appropriate resources to the right location in an expeditious manner has often overwhelmed those first responded who try to manage an incident response. Key objectives of incident or crisis mana g e m e n t include: • Establishing the Incident Command organization • Notifying all appropriate agencies and first r e s p o n d e r personnel • Setting up an effective communications system • Immediate deployment of on-hand resources to gain control of the incident • Ensuring the safety of citizens and response personnel • Setting up a system to order, check-in, deploy and track response resources and personnel • Providing a means for developing response objectives, strategies, and tactics, to review them frequently, and to revise them as required • Providing a means for visualizing the current status of the incident and the status of deployed resources • Providing accurate, consistent and timely information to the media and other interested parties • Tracking the financial costs of the actual response and the logistical support • A Crisis Management System (CMS) is designed to facilitate meeting these objectives by: • Reducing data input/retrieval workload • Providing a unique visualization capability to foster situational awareness and rapid assessment • Automating routine and repeatable procedures • Providing archived and computed information rapidly to assist with decision-making • Facilitating communications and information sharing among the response organization management personnel • Recording and archiving financial, administrative, and historical information about the event or incident Transas Marine's CMS design is based on the principles of the Incident Command System (ICS) structure developed in the U.S. and used by many response organizations worldwide. It has been employed to respond to disasters and events of small and large scale where multiple agencies may have overlapping jurisdictions and where tens, hundreds and even thousands of resources are deployed to control the situation and mitigate damage. Examples where the Incident Command System may be initiated include major oil spills, ship collisions and fires, passenger ship evacuation, offshore search and rescue operations and large harbor festivals.

Vehicle Tracking Technology The use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for navigation and vehicle location tracking has been in widespread use for some time. In the context of this paper a vehicle can be a land vehicle, vessel or aircraft.

Worldwide GPS coverage means that in virtually any locale the ability to navigate accurately and to know where vehicles are at all times is a realistic expectation. A GPS receiver can be integrated with VHF radiotelephone, MF/HF, or even satellite frequency communications to transmit short bursts of data at fixed intervals that contain a great deal of information. The basic information that is utilized in vehicle tracking includes: • GPS time • Vehicle identifier • Vehicle position in latitude and longitude • Instantaneous or computed speed • Instantaneous heading or computed course The information set can easily be expanded to provide additional data as is the case with modern vessel traffic management systems: vessel destination, cargo, ETA, as examples. Other features may be included to permit vehicles to relay data from stations on the net that are beyond the practical range of the base station, or where signal reception is degraded due to terrain or other blocking features. Should longer range communications be required or the terrain makes VHF communications impractical, then satellite radio frequencies can be utilized where such coverage exists.

AIS hardware is compact enough to be encased in a small, portable case together with its own battery power source, AIS module, VHF R/T, antennas, connectors and cabling. This makes it possible to quickly provide this capability to any vehicle on short notice.

Experience with the U.S. Coast Guard — Tracking Real and Simulated Resources In 1998 a system was delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard to assist them in controlling large-scale oil spill response exercises. It consisted of a special purpose software application integrated with a prototype vehicle tracking system that operated on reserved Coast Guard radio frequencies in the VHF range. The PISCES (Pollution Incident Simulation, Control, and Evaluation System) product included software developed by Transas Marine to provide oil spill modeling and resource movement simulation. The display of the oil itself (spreading and movement with wind and tidal forces) and the positions of resources deployed in the spill response exercise are presented on an electronic nautical chart of the exercise area, and is updated continuously to give Exercise Control personnel an instantaneous status picture.

While such exercises simulate the deployment of most spill response resources, often the participating response organizations will deploy actual equipment as a means of testing their own readiness. The Coast Guard was interested in tracking real assets during these exercise deployments along with the simulated resources. In order to meet this objective, a vehicle tracking system was integrated with the PISCES software.

The tracking system was designed as self-contained, carry-aboard equipment that could be quickly installed on any vessels or vehicles that were deployed to participate in spill response exercises.

Another successful test of this system in a different configuration had the receiving Base Station situated approximately 70 miles from the Exercise Control location. Position data from the vessels was received locally at the Base Station and the data was transmitted by telephone line to the Exercise Controller's workstation where the information was displayed. In this case a simple laptop computer with a phone modem was connected to the tracking unit Base Station to permit data transfer by landline phone.

Many tracking system manufacturers provide map-based software with their tracking equipment for the display of vehicle positions. The Transas Marine PISCES software was selected because it was developed for this purpose specifically for the U.S. Coast Guard and provides a sophisticated and detailed display using vector-based nautical charts.

In the future the PISCES application is intended to serve as a complete GIS tool. For this expanded role the software is currently being revised to include detailed land maps showing terrain and key cultural features in addition to the worldwide nautical chart portfolio that it currently employs. Additionally new math models and features are being added to the application to expand its use beyond oil spill response to include chemical spills, search and rescue, and management of offshore maritime casualty response, just to name a few of its capabilities.

In all of these potential uses, the importance of knowing where the major response assets are at any time is paramount for decision-makers. The enhanced PISCES software will be integrated with a future Crisis Management System as one of the many tools made available to decision-makers, and the vehicle tracking systems will therefore be an integral part of CMS as well.

Vessel Traffic Management and AIS Vessel Tracking It was recognized early on that obtaining information on vessel location and intentions placed a heavy burden on VTS personnel who relied on VHF communications between the VTS Center or radar site and the ship's bridge to perform their duties. VTS procedures in major ports mandated numerous radio check-in points for vessels transiting the harbor to report to VTS personnel their location, destination and intentions.

This system often required the users to switch VHF channels from one part of the waterway to another within very large ports. The communications workload that resulted motivated early system designers to look at the aviation industry for answers.

Commercial aircraft have employed transponders that could transmit their identity and other important information to ground-based controllers for a long while. The introduction of Automated Identification Systems (AIS) and their integration with vessel traffic management systems is an application of this technology to marine operations. The IMO has since recognized the benefits of AlS-equipped vessels and shore stations in the management of shipping both offshore and in ports and waterways.

IMO has included the following functionality for shipboard AIS in Resolution MSC.74(69), Annex 3: Automatically transmit and receive data describing a vessel's identity, type, position, course, speed, navigational status, and safety-related information.

Monitor and track vessels that are similarly equipped. Exchange data with shore-based facilities that are similarly equipped.

This automated data exchange is particularly practical for maritime applications.

Shipboard transponders do not eliminate the need for bridge-to-bridge communications between vessels meeting or overtaking in narrow shipping channels. Vessels equipped with AIS transponders can be interrogated (or "polled") and/or may broadcast the information required by local Vessel Traffic Service procedures at regular intervals automatically without requiring the officer of the watch or marine pilot to make additional radio transmissions.

As a consequence, the communications workload is reduced for both shipboard and VTS personnel, language difficulties are reduced or eliminated, and consistent information is received in a timely manner from vessels participating in the system.

Many AIS operate in three modes: • Autonomous: In the Autonomous and continuous mode, the AlS-equipped vessel establishes a communications network with nearby ships and base stations that are similarly equipped and within VHF range. The positive identification of radar targets that can be achieved under such a network can enhance offshore collision avoidance.

• Assigned: The Assigned mode is a Broadcast mode in which individual AIS units can be assigned a specific transmission interval by the shore-based VTS operator.

• Polled: In the Interrogative or Polled mode, the VTS operator can interrogate an AlS-equipped vessel at any time without waiting for the next automatic Broadcast update.

The data received from vessels participating in a harbor AIS is integrated with the VTS radar display to provide an information overlay for each tracked target, and may also be saved in a database for archival purposes. An AlS-based VTS can be established where it is not feasible to develop a radar-based system.

It is not surprising then that vessel traffic management systems for ports and coastal areas are incorporating AIS, and this technology can be expected to be mandatory on several classes of vessels in the near future .

The AIS module is similar to the vehicle tracking equipment developed for the U.S. Coast Guard's PISCES system and described previously. However, additional capabilities are now available with AIS that enhance its use for both traffic management and crisis management.

The basic information of vessel ID. latitude, longitude, course and speed is transmitted to enable plotting the vessel's position on an electronic chart or providing an overlay of data on a radar display, but additional information may include: Vessel's destination; Draft; ETA; Hazardous cargo aboard; Vessel dimensions; Vessel needs and requirements; and Data exchange.

Data may also be transmitted digitally from the VTS center to vessels pertaining to berth assignments, pilot information, notice to mariners, weather forecasts, tide and current data, special instructions and requests from agents, etc. A shipboard AIS unit that is inter- faced with the radar, ARPA, ECDIS, or with a computer displaying electronic nautical charts, can present a complete traffic situation that has been transmitted to the vessel from the VTS center. The VTS center can also assign and switch data transmission channels on different vessels in order to more effectively control the data exchange in a busy port.

Having examined the capabilities of automated vessel tracking and identification systems it is readily apparent that a Crisis Management System can integrate well with a VTS that incorporates an AIS capability. The AIS includes more information about the vehicle/vessel than simply its current position. This additional information can be useful when a Crisis Management System is employed because additional data can be transmitted and displayed with the tracked icon or radar target such as the resources: • Mission, e.g., booming, containment, recovery, search, firefighting • Operational Group Assignment, e.g.

"Beach Cleaning Task Force", "Division One". "Protective Booming Workgroup", "Search and Rescue Group" • Status information, e.g. deploying, enroute to work area, transferring oil, skimming, etc.

System integration of a CMS with AIS will include the ability to capture data that is received from AlS-equipped vessels.

This information must be entered into the CMS database in order to maintain a record of resources deployed, costs incurred, activities, down time, operational assignments, and other factors that are essential to response operational planning, logistics and administration.

The mobilization of a Crisis Management System in an area where an AISbased Vessel Traffic Service is in operation will be successful if integration of the systems is possible, and if the types of vessels that respond to a crisis or emergency situation are being tracked by the VTS.

The CMS requires timely information on the locations of the principle assets that will respond to marine casualties, oil and chemical spills, or to support major harbor festivals. This includes oil spill recovery vessels, fireboats, tugboats, barges, law enforcement vessels, and workboats of all descriptions.

While international requirements for installing AIS equipment on commercial ships will be phased in over a six-year period beginning in 2002, this will only apply to passenger vessels and cargo carrying ships over 300 GRT. The types of vessels that will be employed in incident response generally do not fall into the categories that will be required to be equipped with AIS transponders as part of their SOLAS equipment.

Part of the preparedness for incident response will be the ability of local port authorities and emergency management agencies to quickly fit out response vessels with AIS equipment that is compatible with the local network, i.e., the VTS-monitored network. This is in fact a reasonably easy task given that portable, carry-aboard transponders exist that includes all of the necessary components.

However, as more vessels are equipped with GPS or DGPS receivers, and data exchange interfaces are standardized between shipboard equipment, fitting out a vessel for AIS participation may only require the addition of the AIS transponder and a VHF transceiver that is capable of digital data transmission.

Interconnection with the vessel's GPS receiver is possible with a standard NMEA-0183 interface.

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