AIS Vessel Tracking and Incident Response

Posted by Jason Tieman

Many personnel in the incidentIncident Response resized 600 response world have a limited understanding of how AIS vessel tracking data can be used in spill and incident response. 

Response managers generally understand the basics of the Automatic Identification System (AIS), and recognize the value of this mandated collision avoidance signal that is being transmitted by almost all commercial vessels, because they automatically associate this signal with the ability to see all these vessels plotted on a map.  Using this logic of plotting real time vessel positions alone can give you immediate visibility to: 

  • Vessels or assets located at the site of the incident.
  • Ability to identify vessels of opportunity around the world.
  • Calculating ETAs for vessels needed for best response times.
  • Monitor the activities of all contracted vessels to better coordinate moving equipment and people. 

However, the full operational value of AIS is often overlooked during traditional response planning and drill exercises throughout the year.  If AIS and other asset tracking capabilities are designed to be part of the plan and regularly exercised, the return on investment will be significant.  Here are some ways that AIS data (including satellite AIS data) can be incorporated directly you’re your plan:

  • Coverage of the impacted area:  This will require placement of an AIS antenna to gain visibility. As an example, an antenna deployed on a vessel that is supporting subsea response. This antenna can be pre-configured and on stand-by to be deployed for immediate visibility of impacted area or remote staging areas.
  • User Access to AIS data: Users of an advanced AIS-based vessel tracking system can define unlimited “fleets”.  These fleets can be named and color coded to differentiate various types of vessels or missions. Multiple user accounts can be pre-configured to have the same vessel fleets reflected for all users and managed by a single person or group. This will allow everyone, regardless of their location, to have the same visibility.  Multiple fleets can be set-up for your current vessels or assets and pre-identified response or support vessels that might be requested at the time of an incident. These fleets can also be set-up to send a scheduled “fleet report” to include their location speed, heading and other factors, to an e-mail distribution list.
  • High-value asset tracking: During a response there are some high value assets that might not be a vessel and will not be broadcasting AIS.  An inexpensive, battery-operated satellite tracking device can be pre-programed and ready for activation during an incident. These tracking units can be deployed on barges, skimming devices, or vessels of opportunity. These assets can be managed in the system as a “fleet” similar to vessels transmitting AIS.
  • Alerting & Reporting: By generating “geo-fences” overlaid on a map, you can identify key points of interest for staging areas, camps, impacted areas, or any other geographically relevant area.  By building geo-fences specific to your operation, you can set-up alerts via e-mail notification around specific vessels, a fleet of vessels, or all vessels, arriving, departing or passing that location.  “Conditional alerting” can also notify you of vessels that go above a designated speed or meet other criteria.  All alerts can be configured to be sent to an e-mail distribution list. Reports can also be generated for each point of interest or zone for a given timeframe to provide specific details of how long a vessel was at a location with specific arrival and departure times. The satellite tracking devices would also be captured in these reporting functions.
  • Historical review of vessel/asset positions: Historical vessel position details can be used to go back in time to “replay” exactly what happened and what other ships, workboats, or other assets were involved or nearby.  Like the real-time display, this will allow you to see the vessel in both a chart and satellite view to give you an idea of how they were interacting around a navigable channel, near buoys, or at a dock.  Because of the accuracy of the vessels’ GPS position, you will also be able to measure the distances between vessels positions that are displayed and fixed objects.

All of these functions combined make for a powerful tool to manage the real-time events during a response and to document the actual activities of high value assets contracted to be part of the response. The daily cost of a vessel or other response equipment is significant. Traditionally, invoices are validated by reviewing vessel and staging area logs or documentation that is provided by contractors and reviewed months after the event.  However, automatic documentation of these locations can quickly validate a claim or vendor invoice, or uncover inconsistent records that could be costly.  This documentation will also determine when an asset was deployed or still in the staging area which impacts the rate that should be charged.  Safety zones can be easily monitored and enforced by providing remote visibility to vessel speeds and position relative to these zones.  A large gap in data collection consists of the documentation surrounding claims of all vessels and terminals that were “impacted” by the response.  The responsible party is at the mercy of logs provided by the “impacted” vessels.  This same logic can be used  to compare terminal activity both before and after the incident to determine how the traffic was impacted by the response activities.

AIS-based tools need to be written into a company’s response plan ahead of time and be part of how the response and Incident Management team exercise their plan. The value is quickly lost if you are faced with a major incident, then decide to try to incorporate such a rich program without taking the time to understand how each part of the incident management team; operations, planning, logistics, and finance/administration, can leverage this data.

PortVision has a deep history supporting the incident response community with AIS-based systems, data, and support by ICS-certified personnel.  To learn more, visit our incident response page, or contact us today.

PortVision 360 AIS Vessel Tracking

Posted on Aug 30, 2013, 2:56:00 PM

Topics: Blog