Modern VTS systems are well proven in their ability to fulfil IMO and IALA requirements. They provide facilities that enable port or coastal authorities to manage vessel traffic efficiently through approach fairways, traffic separation schemes and hazardous areas. But as the world’s attention turns to the issue of climate change
and our concern for the environment takes centre stage on the political agenda, we need to ask the question “how does VTS play
its part in this environmentally sensitive age?”
VTS provides services to shipping, and occasionally accidents do happen. Maritime pollution is an issue that not only damages the environment; it can also destroy livelihoods and ruin the economic potential of desirable destinations. An oil spill spreads quickly and even a relatively small amount of a pollutant can quickly cover, and potentially damage, a very large area. This may include Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Marine Protected Areas (MPA), as oil spills do not respect environmental protection policies. Therefore, when an accident does occur, it is important to have the appropriate tools to respond quickly and to contain a spill so that lasting damage can be avoided. As in all situations, protection policies must be backed by measures that are capable of achieving the desired results.
Automatic oil spill detection
VisSim of Norway has developed, tested and successfully proven its ability to automatically detect and subsequently track an oil
spill by using the standard VTS radar.
This provides VTS operators with the necessary information to raise an alarm and activate contingency plans at the earliest
possible opportunity should oil be detected in the water.
Early action regarding an oil spill is also essential if the polluter is to be identified. Quick action is necessary to associate the spill with a particular vessel and the VTS operator is ideally placed to perform this task. Using VisSim’s new OSD3000 software with a modern integrated VTS Traffic Display provides the location of the spill in real time alongside the vessels that are operating in that area. It is therefore feasible that the VTS operator could quickly determine the probable polluting vessel(s) and could alert the relevant authorities to board and test for the same substance on board.
New technology bringing many benefits to
VisSim has successfully tested its OSD3000 software in tests conducted by StatoilHydro of Norway and this technology is now being rolled out across the offshore VTS system that the VisSim has supplied. The core component of the OSD3000 package is its new radar video processing that has moved this technology a number of steps forward. Instead of filtering out sea clutter, as is the case for traditional VTS systems, VisSim processes it. In many cases, sea clutter is considered to be background noise but it is in fact the random scattering of the radar pulse by the sea surface. It can therefore provide information about the sea surface. If oil has been released into the sea, it has a damping effect on the small waves that cause sea clutter. VisSim’s processing can detect this change in amplitude of the sea clutter signal and can then map out the area that is affected by oil.
OSD3000 does therefore require sea clutter in order to detect oil spills and sea clutter typically occurs to a range of approximately 10 nm from the radar location (depending on the height of the radar above sea level). In many cases, it is precisely this inshore area where protection is most needed and quick
containment of a spill is most important in order to prevent environmental damage.