The XVIth IALA Conference was held at the International Convention Centre, Shanghai, in the People’s Republic of China, from 22nd to 27th May, 2006. Co-hosted by China Maritime Safety Administration (China MSA), the Conference was augmented by a workshop in Dalian on 29 and 30 May 2006. Over 270 delegates, representing 44 countries (38 of which are IALA members) attended the Conference. The theme of the Conference was Aids to Navigation in a Digital World.
Digital aids to navigation
Developing the optimum mix of aids to navigation
A recurring theme at the conference was the quest by authorities to identify and provide the optimum mix of aids to navigation. Developments in technology for ships and shore infrastructure, the increasing use of risk assessment and management, as well as continuing emphasis on environmental protection, has underlined the need to review and reassess the provision of aids to navigation. But how can the best use of aids to navigation, including short range, terrestrial and satellite aids to navigation be identified for any given waterway? Standards and regulations set by authorities can provide guidance, but the actual provision is not often measured until the services are actually in place. It was noted that there is a need to review how aids to navigation are provided, taking into account present (and future) needs, rather than historical or perceived needs. In addition, the provision of aids to navigation must reflect the needs of all user groups, requiring full consultation and transparency in the process.
Throughout the conference, a number of trends influencing the provision of aids to navigation were noted. They were:
• Navigation accuracy requirements
• Vessel size/speed
• Waterway use, noting the increased numbers of pleasure craft
• Technological advances in navigational aids, display options,
information exchange, etc.
• Stringent standard requirements
•Multi-modal approaches to service provision
With contemporary risk management techniques, the provision of aids to navigation can be tailored to meet the needs of stakeholders. This can aid risk reduction, ensure efficiency and safety of navigation and protection of the environment. With a session devoted to risk management, the conference provided delegates with insights into the latest developments.
The IALA Risk Management Tool uses both qualitative and quantitative assessments. This approach provides a comprehensive set of options to mitigate risk, and indicates the effectiveness of chosen actions. The model draws on the opinion of experts and the use of a comprehensive computer programme.
The two unique, yet complimentary tools are based on programmes that have been developed and used by IALA members. The quantitative approach, using IWRAP, or IALA Waterway Risk Assessment Program is a software programme based on the work carried out by the Canadian Coast Guard and Dalhousie University, with additional input from experts in France, Denmark and the USA.
The qualitative process is PAWSA, or Port and Waterway Safety Assessment, developed by the USCG. A professionally facilitated workshop process is used to consult stakeholders using a structured process. This enables participation and ‘buy-in’ from all those involved. The two approaches work together to provide a very effective risk assessment, with practical approaches to mitigating the risks that can be implemented and supported by those using the waterway.
Simulation – not just for training!
Simulation has long been recognised as an effective tool for training. The XVIth IALA Conference noted that it can also provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of a given mix of aids to navigation. Throughout the conference, different approaches to the use of simulation were presented. Simulation can not only assist in ensuring that the requirements of users are being met, it can also provide a valuable tool in assessing risk and relating that risk to the services provided. Specific examples included the marking of wind farms in varying weather and light conditions, introduction of AIS on aids to navigation and the conspicuity of lights in built up areas.
The use of Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, for both planning and evaluation of aids to navigation was identified as an area deserving further development. The development of AIS provides an unprecedented opportunity for data collection and analysis, and the integration of a GIS into the analysis provides further insight into the waterway use, risk areas and possible means of mitigating risks.
In addition, Baysian networks can be adapted and applied to aids to navigation, providing a further means of modeling complex situations with the inclusion of probabilistic data.
The digital era and information age
What is the function of a buoy? By looking at the very fundamentals of the provision of aids to navigation, the delegates at the conference were challenged to think outside the norm and identify present and future requirements for aids to navigation. It was stressed that the role of buoys has evolved to a point where they are no longer the primary aid to navigation, but provide a ‘cross-check’ tool. While noting that buoys are just as important today as in the past, it was concluded that they were used in a slightly different context. The challenge now is to recognise and respond to the new factors that are influencing shipping. The concept of the ‘intuitive’ approach to aids to navigation was presented, stressing the need for a clear and unambiguous system.