The expansion of the maritime industry has considerably increased marine traffic. To ensure the smooth facilitation of trades and other services, it is essential for all the ships and vessels on the water to maintain proper maritime communication. Transferring data and status of the vessels back and forth diminishes the margin for errors, keeping the transport fluid. It also helps the ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication.
Throughout the years, several different forms of communication have been practiced- Morse code, semaphores, flags and radio, and telephone services. As technology advances, it has become important for the communication systems aboard the ships to be upgraded as well. Satellite communication is the new, upcoming form of communication that has proved to be extremely beneficial and convenient.
There are several trends in satellite communication; however, there are certain requirements for setting up satellite communication that have to be understood first. Let us take a look at some of these.
Satellite Communication Requirements
Satellite communication services require stationary satellites to connect and function by transmitting and receiving signals. Depending on the type of satellite communication system that has been chosen, there is a need for the relevant equipment. This includes:
- VHF: Very High Frequency or VHF transceiver for general communication or to initiate distress alerts.
- HF: High Frequency or HF transmitter for general communication and a bigger parameter for distress alerts, i.e., worldwide distress alert.
- MF: Medium Frequency or MF transceiver for a signal up to a medium range and general communication.
- Navtex: Provides information and regular weather updates, alerts, forecasts, and other maritime safety information about hazards, obstacles, etc.
- SART: These are positioning systems that pinpoint the location of a distress signal using radar and other systems.
Satellite communication enables the crew onboard ships to be able to inform other ships and teams of the changes happening in real-time, reducing errors and thereby increasing efficiency.
Satellite Communication Trends
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) developed the e-navigation strategy to maintain better communication between ships and ship-to-shore. It also facilitates greater information and data exchange between ships. E-navigation reduces the margin for human error and failure by implementing a better functioning programme consisting of enhanced navigational tools and electronics.
It includes a number of updated systems that are widely used in the maritime industry, such as, Automatic Identification System (AIS), Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS), Long Range Identification and Tracking Systems (LRIT), Automatic Radar Plotting Aids (ARPA), Integrated Bridge System (IBS), Integrated Navigation Systems (INS) and Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS).
The retraction of ice in the Arctic has increased marine traffic in the region for trade, research, and other purposes. The extreme weather conditions make the Arctic an unexplored area, where communication options there are extremely limited. In such conditions, satellites play an important role in providing efficient means of communication and guarantee a smooth exchange of information.
The maritime industry has been developing a number of systems to monitor and guide vessels in the region. Radio-based communication systems for shorter distances are also expected to be useful for information and data transfer. Unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites are the only options that will provide a strong enough connection to maintain communication in the Arctic.
The concept of autonomous ships aims to make ships self-driven, to increase competency and productivity thus enabling smooth functioning of tasks. It reduces the manpower required in the operations of the ship, minimizing human errors. Such types of ships are currently being experimented on, but they look promising for the future.
These ships will be mostly unmanned and equipped with several new and upgraded pieces of technology, such as tracking systems, advanced sensors to avoid obstacles, a positioning system to update them about alternate routes, control systems so that the ships can be operated from teams on the shore if necessary. These ships connect constantly with the team onshore and hence require advanced equipment and systems.
Evolution of GMDSS
The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, or GMDSS, is a system that has been agreed on internationally. It consists of set safety procedures, communication protocols, and equipment to help ships in distress. Initially, the GMDSS carried out ship-to-ship communication via Morse code due to a lack of technological advancement.
With the introduction of radio systems, ships started making use of radio signals combined with Morse code as a form of distress signal. It helped save numerous lives over the years.
With the launch of HF and MF signals, the IMO issued a way that improved maritime distress communication significantly. The GMDSS provides a sort of a search and rescue plan, which all the nations in the world are now implementing. It is based on a combination of radio services on ground and satellite signals, enabling the rescue operations to be ship-to-shore.
The GMDSS provides distress information beforehand, alerting operators and ships in the area, several times preventing a disaster from occurring in the first place. The system also requires us to equip all the ships with NAVTEX and other GMDSS equipment.
The advancement in communication technology has led to rapid globalization and an increase in international coordination.
Globalization and Communication
Globalization has brought the world closer and has thus made it important to maintain strong connections with everyone. Communication aboard ships has improved significantly over the past few years, though the change has been a slow one. Just some years ago, smaller ships and vessels that did not have to travel far had to be operated manually. Since there was a limited crew onboard such ships, there was no need for computers and other technology for communication.
However, globalization has opened the doors for trade across the world and it has thus become necessary for ships to be equipped with the latest forms of communication and technology. Clients demand faster service and information about every event that is taking place. Radio, internet, and satellite telephones have facilitated this instant exchange of data. These efficient means of communications ensure that the journey goes smoothly and also prove to be extremely useful for the security of said ships.
Maintaining strong communication is perhaps the most important part of ensuring the safety of vessels in the maritime industry. Over the years, mariners have taken several measures to make sure that maritime communication occurs without any hindrance. With the advancement in technology, we need to make numerous updates to the pre-existing equipment, in order to upgrade the industry and ensure maximum productivity.
Today, the primary need for shipping and boat manufacturing companies in India is to stay updated with the changing communication trends and accordingly design and manufacture their vessels. What are your thoughts on the trends in maritime communication? Drop a comment to let us know!
Cover Image Source: MarineInsight