Portable piloting units, models and hardware performance



Erik Brinch Nielsen, MARIMATECH, Hinnerup, Denmark


The Portable Piloting Unit (PPU) will be used in nearly all pilot assisted operations within a few years. Technology has brought the weight down, electronic charts are becoming more accurate, and software has become more powerful and user friendly. Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as GPS, GLONASS and GALLIEO are working hand in hand offering unique reliability and accuracy and lest not forget pilots are becoming more IT minded in adopting this new tool.

Several types of systems are available. It is important, before purchasing, to acquaint oneself with the performance of the large spectrum of choices, in order to ensure that the system selected will do the job needed.

The environment

Cargo turn-around time has increased far beyond expectations, ships are bigger and the world’s top ports are proving difficult (almost impossible) to enlarge. As traffic increases in the evermore confined waters, a calling for tools to maintain high safety standards becomes paramount. Timing is vital so as not to go over capacity and traffic limitations caused by poor weather conditions is almost no longer an unacceptable excuse.

If one of the new breed of very large ships were to go aground in the harbour approach channel, it could end up causing environmental damages to a scale never before seen. If a harbour were to be closed for a long time, it would result in massive economical losses. The latest PPU is just one important tool in the puzzle to increase safety.

The way to safety

The way to safety is a cocktail of several elements. A level of precise communication between ships on par with that of aircraft communication sounds simple. But in practice, connected to the many problems associated with a lack of understanding between pilot and ships officers, is a well-known problem linked to poor phraseology. AIS has become a fantastic tool which is getting better and better as it is adapted by the user.

But pilots have become aware of its limitations and so its danger. Through the implementation of AIS, VTS seems to play a less important role, but in reality the opposite is proving true as traffic continues to increase and more importantly, the vessels grow larger. The latest range of PPUs now being launched offer unique
advantages due to their extremely high reliability and accuracy. Had it been built a few years earlier, the new PPU, with all that it packs inside, would have weighed over 25 kg.

The new PPU also has a prediction accuracy which is essential for operating with extreme precision in confined areas for safe and efficient berthing. Precise GNSS receivers combined with dual frequency receivers, along with real-time Heave, Roll and Pitch and squad corrections offer the pilot a tool of unknown precision and reliability.

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