Tag Archives: e-Navigation

FCC Proposed Rulemaking affecting e-Nav

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing changes to Parts 80 and 95 of their rules.  The proposals include:

  1. require emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) to be capable of broadcasting position data when activated, which will improve the ability of rescue personnel to locate distressed ships;
  2. update the equipment standards for Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) to ensure that PLBs meet updated functional and technical parameters;
  3. authorize equipment certification and use of Satellite Emergency Notification Devices (SENDs) that comply with RTCM standards, providing for the use of additional technologies for safety of life and rescue scenarios;
  4. permit equipment certification and use of Maritime Survivor Locating Devices (MSLDs) that comply with RTCM standards, in order to enhance maritime safety;
  5. provide for equipment certification and use of Automatic Identification System Search and Rescue Transmitters (AIS-SARTs) that comply with international standards, which will contribute to maritime safety;
  6. clarify the rules regarding radar equipment;
  7. permit the use of portable marine VHF radio transmitters by persons on shore;
  8. permit VHF digital small message services (VDSMS) on certain maritime VHF channels;
  9. allow assignment or transfer of control of ship station licenses, removing a regulatory hurdle to secondary market transactions; and
  10. correct certain typographical errors.

You can submit comments on or before June 2, 2014, and reply comments are due on or before June 30, 2014.

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Call for Papers – Innovative Technologies for the Marine Transportation System

From the Executive Director of the Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS):

“A friendly reminder that the deadline to send abstracts for the upcoming Resilient MTS conference is nearing.  We expect that the deadline may be extended a bit.  Please forward this information to your staff and stakeholders.  Sincere thank you!

“We are pleased to announce the call for papers for the upcoming TRB-CMTS conference, “Innovative Technologies for a Resilient Marine Transportation System” to be held June 24-26, 2014, at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.  Persons interested in submitting a paper or presenting relevant research should submit an abstract of 300 words or less by 28 February. We sincerely appreciate if you would forward this information to your innovative technology and resiliency experts and to interested stakeholders.

Further information:  Call for Papers

Sincere regards,

Helen A. Brohl”

e-Navigation Underway 2014

e-Nav Underway 2014The 4th annual e-Navigation Underway conference is being held, once again, aboard a DFDS ferry sailing between Copenhagen and Oslo 28-30 January 2014. The theme this year is “Waypoints beyond the Strategy Implementation Plan” building upon the work that IMO has progressed to deliver an e-Navigation implementation plan in 2014.

This is a first-rate conference and probably the premier e-Navigation event dedicated to showcasing e-Nav test beds. I’ve participated in two of the previous three events, and hope to be able to join this one. Stay tuned for more details.

Help shape US e-Navigation implementation

The Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS) e-Navigation Integrated Action Team (“e-Nav IAT”) has been working for nearly a year to implement the US e-Navigation Strategic Action Plan.  The Strategic Action Plan says that “A core element of successful e-Navigation implementation is partnering across the spectrum of stakeholders” and among the principles supporting that are: “Focus on meeting users’ requirements. Develop a collaborative partnership with the MTS community. Encourage and support regular and frequent communications. Be thoroughly transparent in decision-making activities.

The e-Nav IAT has announced that they are conducting an online dialog through 28 February 2013 on the future of e-Navigation in the United States.

Go to http://enav.ideascale.com to register and start participation in the dialog.  You can review current focus areas, see suggested actions, comment on proposed actions and suggest your own.

According to the site: “Users submit their ideas. Our community discusses and votes for ideas. The best ideas bubble up to the top.”

So what will be done with the outcome(s) of the dialog?  The site says:

“Comments provided to this dialogue will be considered by the CMTS e-Nav IAT along with other stakeholder input to inform the IAT’s work plan and recommendations. An analysis of the feedback received through this effort will be made available at the conclusion of this dialogue at http://www.cmts.gov.”

Whether this “analysis” will consist of a report, statistics or suggestions for what will be included in the action plan is not stated. But, it is certainly a chance for you to have your voice heard if you have any interest in e-Navigation, so go ahead and check it out.

Iranian AIS “spoofing”?

Recent reports (here, here and here) say that Iranian tankers are transmitting “false” AIS data in order to try to evade sanctions on trade. Reading the press reports, it’s kind of confusing what is actually being “spoofed” and whether they are even referring to AIS. This article from Reuters (linked through the always-informative gCaptain) says “AIS” but the description is more appropriate to LRIT: “sending incorrect satellite signals that confuse global tracking systems” and “Large vessels must transmit their identity and location to other ships and coastal authorities using an automatic satellite communication system.”  There’s a bit of confusion in the article beyond what actual tracking system is being used. One quote implies the ship’s GPS can falsify its identity: “a ship could get its Global Positioning System (GPS) to give false data, including pretending to be another vessel.” GPS only provides position data, not identity. It is either the AIS equipment or LRIT system on board that provides identity (which as correctly noted in the article is input by the crew and can be fairly easily altered). The article includes a false statement: “However, another piece of identification data, the IMO [number], can’t be changed, and that, too, is sent with every message on position, which enabled vessel-tracking experts to detect that signals came from two different ships.” The IMO number can indeed be changed in the AIS static and voyage-related message (not the position report, which doesn’t include the IMO number). So it’s just as “spoofable” as the MMSI, vessel name, dimensions and all the other information that is manually entered in the AIS.

This article uses the term “AIS” and says “…Iranian tankers [are] sending false AIS signals and somehow being in two places at the same time” but there is little more information. If “being in the same place at the same time” due to duplicate MMSIs being transmitted is suspicious behavior, then there are a lot of suspicious vessels out there. Many vessels are transmitting bogus MMSIs in their AIS messages, unintentionally either through laziness (entering “123456789,” “111111111” or something else rather than the actual MMSI), honest mistake (transposing or forgetting to enter digits), or a fault with the AIS equipment itself (the infamous 1193046 is the default MMSI for a certain type of unit that is reset when the unit is power cycled.).

Both of these articles are written from the perspective of external (i.e. shore-based) systems that collect data and create vessel tracks. From nearby vessels it is not a huge safety issue (except if vessels are attempting to hail each other to make passing arrangements and one of the vessels’ name is falsified). It is also readily apparent the information is incorrect when the vessels are in sight.

To a certain extent, this incident validates an argument made in the early days of Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). Many were arguing that LRIT, AIS and other tracking measures were redundant and that only one or two capabilities should be focused upon. Others argued that with multiple systems, there was more opportunity for “bad guys” to make errors – e.g., “spoof” an incorrect MMSI but neglect to change the IMO number to match it (as appears to be the case here). This actually makes detecting spoofing easier, as such anomalies would stand out (unless of course it’s so complicated that every vessel, legitimate or not, can’t help but make mistakes).

In any event it is clear that AIS is no panacea, and that those unfamiliar with the technology and its use can easily misunderstand the implications of incorrect data – whether intentionally transmitted or otherwise. It’s good to see that the potential “spoofing” was detected and there ought to be additional efforts dedicated to analysis of AIS data – in conjunction with other information – to detect problems, sinister or otherwise. Finally, as AIS technology matures and “next generation” AIS is developed, security and data integrity need to be addressed, as Kurt Schwehr has noted. I hope to look into this some more in future blog posts.

Week in Review – 03-09 December 2012

Main focus and events this past week:

  • 03 Dec 12: CMTS e-Nav IAT chairman’s meeting – discussed upcoming meetings and efforts following e-Navigation 2012 conference
  • 04 Dec 12:(1)  NTSB GIS conference – interesting gathering to present uses of GIS in transportation safety in all modes. Unfortunately missed Maritime portion on Wednesday morning; but hope to catch up through archived webcast. (2) LOMA coordination and governance meeting.
  • 05 Dec 12: Federal Initiative for Navigation Data Enhancement (FINDE) meeting – Regular meeting of interagency group working to harmonize Government navigation data standards. Promising reports on efforts, including prototype establishment of industry reporting portal and provision of various web services for navigation information.
  • 06 – 07 Dec 12: Various e-Nav and AIS work, including participation in phone conference to discuss work needed to get transmission of weather data via AIS in Alaska set up. Interesting public-private partnership opportunity between Marine Exchange of Alaska, National Weather Service and USCG.

The week ahead:

  • 10 Dec 12: Work on a blog post or two, preps for CMTS, USACE, USCG and RTCM meetings. Oh and this as well as other holiday preparations!
  • 11 Dec 12: CMTS Bagel Breakfast, e-Nav IAT and WG meetings. Also working with USCG on a joint article for the IALA Bulletin on transmission of various navigation data via AIS in the US inland waterways system.
  • 12 Dec 12: RTCM SC123 meeting. Briefing to USACE Chief of Ops on LOMA status and requested support.
  • 13 Dec 12: USCG-USACE AIS coordination meetings; RTCM SC121 meeting to adjudicate comments on SC 12100.0 standard “For creation and qualification of application-specific messages.”
  • 14 Dec 12: This and catch up from the rest of the week; hopefully also get a batch of Altbier brewing.

On the horizon:

I delayed updating my iPhone 4s to iOS 6 as I had heard complaints about the new Maps app. Apparently Apple has created their own and gone away from the original Google Maps-based app. However, my compulsion to keep my software updated overruled my reluctance, and I upgraded and found it wasn’t that bad. The car-GPS-like directions are pretty cool, and I haven’t had some of the problems I had feared, such as lack of points of interest. I haven’t used it too much, so we’ll see how it works once I travel some more and use it in places I’m unfamiliar with to try to find things.

"Patomic Park"

One problem I have noticed (that is a real howler IMHO) is the misidentification of a place that is fairly well-known and documented (see image at right). “East Patomic Park” is how it shows up in the new Maps app; right next to the “Potomac River.”

I’m really scratching my head how this could happen, as it’s not a new park – it’s spelled correctly on the USGS topographic map (image below) which was compiled in 1965 (and updated in 1983, though not the park). I thought most digital map data was taken from these sources as well as drawn from public map databases, such as those maintained by USGS, NOAA, Census and others.USGS Potomac Park

For what it’s worth, here’s what the same area looks like in Google Maps (since I don’t have the old Maps app anymore):

Google Maps Potomac Park

So, what does this have to do with e-Navigation and ECDIS (the supposed topic of this blog, or this post, at least)? Well, I think it illustrates one of the main challenges that will be faced in the implementation of e-Navigation. One would think that relatively minor issues such as this would have been worked out by now – the locations haven’t changed in many years, electronic maps have been around for a couple of decades at least, and with the ability to cross check multiple data sources errors like this shouldn’t last long. But they still do, apparently.

This should cause concern for those who seek to implement e-Navigation. End users (navigators, VTS officers, dispatchers, regulators, etc.) need to rely on the information that is being presented to them. They way to do this is through a well-thought out data architecture that needs to include common data formats and identification of authoritative sources. The authoritative sources, or “data stewards,” need to ensure the data they are responsible for is correct and there is a means for flagging incorrect data and pushing updates in a prompt manner.

Much easier said than done, I know, but fortunately there are concerted efforts to tackle this problem. Internationally, the e-Navigation Architecture is a key part of IMO e-Navigation development. In the US, the Federal Initiative for Navigation Data Enhancement (FINDE) is working on US-specific data architecture efforts. This is the least “sexy” work there is in e-Navigation, however I contend it is the most important. Since the definition of e-Navigation is “harmonized [management and exchange] of navigation information,” the integrity of that information is of paramount importance.