Although the ESABALT concept is in an early stage of development, its utility can be envisaged in a variety of different user scenarios. These scenarios have been constructed after gathering end-user opinions and views about the current challenges faced by maritime personnel in the Baltic Sea. These views have been recorded through online-surveys and in-person interviews.
Autonomous Data Crowdsourcing: Navigators onboard vessels plying the Baltic Sea often have to traverse long, narrow and winding archipelagos to reach the destination harbors, for example Stockholm or Turku. It would be beneficial for them if they would be aware of the conditions (sea, weather, accident, pollution etc.) within the archipelago before entering, thus allowing them to plan the route and speed beforehand. An innovative concept that was developed as part of this WP was the ‘Autonomous Vessel Data-Crowdsourcing’. This includes interfacing and integration of novel sensors with the ESABALT terminals onboard the vessels or in automated sensor stations so that relevant data is crowdsourced to the server with minimal, if not zero human intervention. One example is to install a very sensitive inertial measurement unit (IMU) which measures accurately the pitching and heaving of the vessel as it travels through the waves. This data (when merged with geolocation) will give an estimate of the roughness of the sea over time. The sensor is interfaced with the ESABALT terminal where its raw data is sampled (to reduce data overload) and aggregated with other sensor/AIS information using automated algorithms to present a human readable plot of the sea conditions encountered along the vessel route (as shown in the figure below). This information can be uploaded to ESABALT and thus available to vessels following on the same route, and beneficial to plan their own speed, engine power, course etc. This leads to overall situational awareness along the future route of vessels, thus leading to improved maritime safety.
An oil spill occurs in the Baltic: A damaged tanker is leaking oil. Recovery and mitigation activities must be initiated quickly, but it inevitably takes time for authorities to arrive to the affected area. Ships in the vicinity of the leaking oil must be warned to stay away so as to not exacerbate the oil’s spreading. This is accomplished in mere minutes through an emergency alert issued by the ESABALT system. At the same time, observations from ships already in the area can provide critical information as to the extent of the oil spread. ESABALT provides the means to gather this information for immediate analysis by the appropriate authorities. A response fleet helicopter arrives to the area and deploys a mobile sensor platform to provide continuous monitoring of the situation, as well as an enhanced communication infrastructure. This mobile platform is seamlessly integrated with the ESABALT situational awareness system.
Involving small boats in coastal monitoring: In the aftermath of an oil-spill clean-up, the remnants drift slowly towards the coast. The authorities have to invest significant time and resources to search along the entire coastline for oil residue. Instead, along most of the Baltic Sea coast small boats, personal sail boats and pleasure craft are constantly plying. They even reach into the most secluded areas. ESABALT can provide a common platform for such end-users to report sightings of oil residue or other pollutants, especially by deploying ESABALT as a tablet-based or smart-phone based application. Integrating small-crafts in coastal monitoring can help reduce the burden on resource constrained authorities. This scenario is also applicable for first reporting of algae-bloom which plagues part of the Baltic coast during the warmer parts of the year.
Integrating Earth-Observation technologies in sea monitoring: In sea-ice conditions which are deemed passable by ice-strengthened ships without ice-breaker escort, ESABALT can form an alternate medium for distributing latest ice-maps prepared using data from earth-observation satellites such as Sentinel-1. Ships can then download ice-maps from particular geo-areas along their planned route. Another scenario is the use of aerial drones to guide ships into busy harbors by providing real-time aerial views of the route. These images can be exchanged autonomously between the unmanned aerial vehicle and ship’s crew through the ESABALT terminal, thus contributing to situational awareness and maritime safety during berth approach.
Dozens of ships are beset in ice: Converging ice fields, driven together by gale force winds, cause dozens of ships to become beset in ice. This information is immediately broadcast throughout the Northern Baltic as an ESABALT alert, and dozens more ships are re-routed in order to avoid the converging ice fields, thus avoiding the same fate. Two large passenger ships are quickly drifting closer to one another and require immediate icebreaker assistance to avoid collision. Other ships in need of icebreaker assistance must be prioritized according to their condition and cargo details. The ESABALT system facilitates this prioritization, as ships are able to provide details of their situation. They can also view the status of the icebreaker fleet and see where they reside in the queue. The captains of five mid-size vessels, whose situation is less precarious, attempt to free their ships by their own power. Three are successful, but two remain stuck in the ice field. The ESABALT system is updated accordingly.
Multiple ships collision in narrow channel: In difficult navigational conditions – visibility restricted by fog and in heavy traffic – a collision involving three ships occurs. Due to the serious damage to the ships and a threat to the health and life of humans, it is necessary to plan and conduct an efficient and effective search and rescue operation. Services responsible for coordinating search and rescue operations use information from the ESABALT situational awareness system to determine the necessary forces and means to carry out the operation. They choose the method of survivors search and rescue. At the same time, developing information about the incident will be used by the services responsible for the vessel traffic monitoring and management (VTS), in order to redirect traffic.
There are a number of additional scenarios where ESABALT can find benefits, and we are continuously on the lookout for innovative applications. The project members would be happy to receive feedback and interesting ideas from end-users and stakeholders!