The Port of Rotterdam is one of the first to adopt a new technology that assures the safety of approaching vessels in a world waking up to the threat of GPS jamming.
GPS is now one of the key technologies used to provide position, navigation and timing (PNT) information that ships rely on to ensure safe navigation in poor weather conditions.
However, with the threat of solar storms and both deliberate and accidental jamming it is essential to develop technologies that can continue delivering information for the safety of both crew and cargo.
The new “eDLoran” system uses signals transmitted from England, France and Germany to determine a ships location with accuracy closer than five metres.
eDLoran will be used to assist harbour pilots guide vessels precisely through narrow channels.
The system will work in unison with the “eDLoran” technology recently introduced by the General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) across the UK and Ireland in the Dover Strait.
The systems ensure that satellite navigation signals are constantly cross-checked against a high-precision aid that will automatically take over, should GPS tracking be disturbed. They rely on radio transmissions from special stations located in Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and the UK.
Furthermore, there is no issue in re-equipping radio stations that transmit the soon-to-be obsolete “Loran-C” signals.
With an easy integration process, the UK has already committed to the installation at seven harbours along the east coast by late 2014. They are seeking an international agreement with neighbouring countries to do the same, in a bid to extend the new services to the rest of Europe’s harbours and coastlines.
Wim van Buuren, a licensed maritime pilot with the Dutch Pilots Association (Loodswezen), commented “Thorough investigation into our aim of improving port accessibility has made us aware of the vulnerability of satellite navigation systems. Since the accessibility of the highly important Eurochannel in the approach to Rotterdam is maximised by using modern techniques such as probabilistic tidal window calculations in combination with SBAS GPS, we need an answer to safeguard navigation when GPS fails.
“Traditional non-electronic position fixing devices cannot replace SBAS GPS in the shallow North Sea area around Rotterdam. eDLoran is at present known and demonstrated by us as the most successful and most accurate operational navigation system at sea which meets our backup requirements.”
“eDLoran can be implemented at any location where the Loran signal can be received. The French Loran stations in the northwest European Loran system make accurate positioning on our continent feasible”.
Several key shipping nations are now beginning to commit to the application of eLoran technology through consultation with the GLA.
This includes South Korea, who experienced a 16-day GPS jamming attack from rival nation North Korea in 2012, and Russia in partnership with the UK, who is hoping to improve safety through new High Arctic Routes. The USA also harbours hope of developing new technologies by re-equipping old Loran-C stations.