Maritime safety should be viewed as an international whole
Risks related to maritime traffic in the Baltic Sea have been assessed only in
areas where a concrete risk of accident has been detected. However, the risk
analyses carried out by different countries in these areas vary greatly.
According to VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, maritime safety would
improve across the entire Baltic Sea if accident risks were analysed in all
Baltic countries and across wider areas using a system for risk assessment
that is jointly agreed on by all parties.
Identification System (AIS) for the identification and communication of ships
also offers significant possibilities for improving traffic safety in the
Baltic Sea. By investing in technologies which promote maritime safety,
accidents could be prevented and irreparable personal and environmental
damages could be avoided," President and CEO Erkki KM Leppävuori notes.
According to President and CEO Erkki KM Leppävuori, the Baltic Sea needs joint
principles to apply the Formal Safety Assessment recommended by the
International Maritime Organization (IMO).
already exists. The trouble is that currently, risk assessments carried out by
different countries vary greatly, for example, in terms of how the costs of
oil accidents are estimated. "A single method would enable the Baltic
countries to identify real risk areas and assess the safety of their own sea
territories," Leppävuori explains.
Identification System (AIS) transmits geographical and identification data to
and between ships, facilitating safe passage and readiness in changing sea
conditions. The system provides a cohesive picture of sea traffic in the
area. It helps ships anticipate the behaviour of surrounding traffic, and
icebreakers can head to where help is needed. The system also facilitates more
accurate risk analyses.
VTT has been involved in developing
new message specifications for the AIS to increase the data content of
messages. Using this new type of message (the AIS Application-Specific
Message), ships can update weather information received from land stations on
e.g. wind speeds, sea levels and atmospheric pressure in real time and thus
predict changes in weather and sea conditions.
messages will reduce the workload of captains and navigators. In the future,
they can concentrate on navigation instead of using the traditional VHF voice
radio method to send information about the ship's cargo, passenger numbers and
any detected hazards. In addition, the new messages provide an efficient means
of communication to inform ships about caution areas, search and rescue
operations and routes recommended by icebreakers.
integration of the new message format to existing on-board systems is slow. It
could be decades before it is in wide use. That is why VTT is in the process
of developing an affordable and easy method for ships to adopt the new
features provided by AIS. In order to utilise the new features, ships need
software that runs on a regular computer, and a cable to link the computer to
the ship's AIS transponder. The software interprets the messages transmitted
by AIS and provides current weather observations and other data in an
easy-to-view format. The first version of the software is already being tested
aboard Viking Line's ships. The project is a joint venture of VTT, the Baltic
Sea Action Group, IBM and the Finnish Transport Agency.
has used AIS to collect data about hazardous near misses between ships, which
happen at sea from time to time. More efficient monitoring of maritime traffic
can help to reduce the number of near misses.
traffic control system can learn to predict hazards
safety in the Gulf of Finland is monitored at VTS (Vessel Traffic Service)
centres. VTS is designed to improve maritime safety, promote the flow and
efficiency of vessel traffic and to prevent accidents and related
The increased traffic in the Gulf of
Finland – the ever-growing numbers of oil cargoes in particular – has meant
that each VTS operator is responsible for monitoring more ships.
develops tools to forecast hazards and to help busy traffic service personnel
take these hazards into account in advance. The method currently being
developed by VTT is based on "teaching" the control system by imitating normal
sea traffic. This way, the system learns to predict abnormal ship movements.
This, in turn, gives the control personnel and ship crew time to act in order
to avoid accidents.
Traffic separation to improve safety
in Sea of Åland
The IMO-approved traffic separation
scheme, which was deployed in the Sea of Åland on 1 January 2010, separates
north- and southbound traffic into different lanes. The deployment was based
on the risk analysis carried out by VTT, which showed that traffic separation
and its control is a very cost-efficient way to improve safety in the area and
to protect the vulnerable archipelago.