AIS weather information enhances Kilkeel harbour safety
The narrow entrance to the port at Kilkeel, Co. Down makes navigation difficult at times of high wind and waves. Building a breakwater would have cost the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority (NIFHA) around £15m.
NIHFA engaged Irish Lights as consultants to propose a technical solution to make this port entrance safer for mariners to navigate. As most large commercial vessels and fishing boats are equipped with the Automatic Identification System (AIS), we designed a solution using AIS to deliver up-to-date weather information to vessels entering the harbour. We wrote the specification, evaluated the tenders and gave advice on the hardware and equipment to purchase. We then tested and commissioned the system.
Continuous wind, wave and tidal information provided
Two duplicate MetOcean stations at the end of the pier at the harbour entrance now continuously measure and broadcast information on wind, wave and tidal conditions. Two AIS base stations and a server provide the communications for this service.
Users of this service can receive this information by (a) using native AIS, (b) through the Internet or (c) through SMS (mobile) service. Their choice depends on the equipment fitted on-board the vessel:
- Vessels fitted with an AIS transponder, fully integrated into the navigation display and running up-to-date software – will be able to receive the information automatically from the AIS MetOcean station on the pier.
- Vessels that only have an AIS transponder – will receive an AIS text message with the information when within one nautical mile range of the AIS station. They may also request information updates at any time using the AIS text message service if within range (20 miles) of the AIS equipment.
- Vessels not fitted with AIS but with a smartphone/web-enabled device and within coverage of the mobile providers’ Internet service area – will be able to receive the information by logging onto a dedicated page on the NIFHA website.
- Vessels not fitted with AIS but with a standard mobile phone and within coverage of the mobile providers’ service area – will be able to receive the information by texting “weather” to +447717989994. A reply containing the lastest recorded conditions will then be sent to the users’ phone.
Background Information (extracted from NIFHA Website)
NIFHA Annual Report 2009/10
Navigational safety at the entrance to Kilkeel Harbour continues to be a priority issue for the Authority. In January 2010 DARD commissioned a business case for the new £15M outer breakwater at Kilkeel which was recommended following a detailed technical and environmental impact study in 2008. The need for the breakwater will be considered in the context of the overall provision of fishery harbours in Northern Ireland. The business case is due to be completed in September 2010.
NIFHA Annual Report 2010/11
Navigational safety at Kilkeel Harbour entrance continues to be a priority issue for the Authority. In February 2011 DARD [NI Department of Agriculture and Rural Development] announced that it was accepting the recommendation of the Deloitte report to install an enhanced safety management system as the preferred option for mitigating the identified navigational risk. Based on the risk assessment and consultation work which has been carried out the Authority believes that the only option which addresses effectively the root cause of the identified risk is the Safety Breakwater as proposed in the Technical Studies report of October 2008.
However, given the recommendation of the Deloitte report and the current restrictions on the availability of funding the Board has agreed that a reasonable course of action from the safety point of view is to install an upgraded Safety Management System (SMS) on the basis that such a system would provide a positive improvement in navigational safety at the harbour entrance, at least on an interim basis. Initial research has indicated that automated Aids to Navigation systems are now available whereby real time weather and tide data from a shore based station can either be broadcast to vessels using the Automatic Identification System (AIS) system or can be transmitted using an internet or mobile phone link. Consultation is therefore taking place with port users on the specification of a suitable system with a view to submitting an application for European Fisheries Funding (EFF) by the end of November 2011. DARD has confirmed that this application will be given priority consideration by the EFF Selection Panel.
NIFHA Annual Report 2011/12
In October 2011 European Fisheries Funding (EFF) was approved for the installation of an enhance safety management system at Kilkeel Harbour. This will take the form of an automated navigational safety information system and further details are given in the section below on safety. To complement the on-shore recording and communication system being installed by the Authority DARD has made available to vessel owners a funding scheme for the installation of suitable on-board receiving equipment. It is understood that there has been a good demand for this funding. This integrated approach is welcomed by the Authority in view of the importance it has placed on improving navigational safety at Kilkeel Harbour entrance. It is also pleasing to report that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is supportive of this project.
The key target for 2012-13 is the installation and commissioning of an automated navigational safety information system at Kilkeel Harbour which will be based on established AIS technology (i.e. Automatic Identification System technology). This system will provide skippers with real-time information on weather and tide conditions at the harbour entrance to enable them to make a decision on whether or not it is safe to enter or leave the harbour. The Commissioner of Irish Lights has been engaged to assist with this project in view of their technical expertise in this area. Subject to the tender process it is planned to install this system by 30 November 2012.