Owning our e-Navigation future



Dr Sally Basker, Director of Research and Radionavigation, General Lighthouse Authorities of the United Kingdom and Ireland


The General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Ireland (GLAs) have a shared mission: ‘To deliver a reliable, efficient and cost effective Aids to Navigation service for the benefit and safety of all mariners.’ However, we are facing a period of unprecedented change: institutionally, the European Commission has recognised the importance of the sector to the EU’s trade and prosperity and is looking to develop a new maritime policy; it is also proposing the development of ‘Motorways of the Sea’ as a “real competitive alternative to land transport” for the movement of freight; and meanwhile, ships are getting larger and faster and the sea-lanes more crowded. The global maritime community’s response is e-Navigation.

The International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) has defined e-Navigation as “the harmonised collection, integration, exchange and presentation of maritime information onboard and ashore by electronic means to enhance berth to berth navigation and related services, for safety and security at sea and protection of the marine environment”. Its aim is to make safe navigation easier and cheaper by minimising navigational errors, incidents and accidents; protecting people, the environment and resources; improving security; reducing costs for shipping and coastal states; and delivering benefits from the commercial shipping industry.

Critically, IALA and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are putting their full institutional weight behind e-Navigation to ensure that it gains widespread  international support and is delivered in a timely fashion. Embarking on our journey We have been providing and optimising radionavigation services to the mariner for more than sixty years including radiobeacons for direction finding, DECCA, radar beacons (racons) and radar target enhancers, and we are proud of our track record.

Over the last decade we have collectively:

• Introduced IALA marine radiobeacon DGPS

• Deployed a Loran station at Rugby on a trial basis

• Reduced the overall cost of service provision by 50 per cent in
real terms

In May 2007, we launched our GLA Radionavigation Plan (GRNP) and announced the award of a 15-year eLoran contract to VT Communications setting our course for  the e-Navigation future. This means our long-term voyage will see us moving towards a service mix with a greater emphasis on radionavigation services: the Global Positioning System (GPS); Galileo; Radiobeacon DGNSS; Automatic Identification Systems (AIS); enhanced Loran (eLoran); and Radar Beacons (Racons). Nevertheless it is clear from in-depth consultation with users, both in the commercial and leisure sectors, that lighthouses, buoys and beacons will continue to play an important role as part of a balanced AtoN mix.

Our GRNP, which focuses solely upon radionavigation services and their role within our overall AtoN service provision mix, sets out how we are going to deliver the radionavigation aspects of our Marine AtoN strategy (‘2020 The Vision’) in support of the emerging e-Navigation concept. These will be under periodic review to ensure it adapts as maritime practice changes and technology advances.

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