The innovation of maritime communication system to improve maritime safety

An innovative maritime communication system enabling:
1. Invisible and unidentifiable VHF communication becomes visible in real time with one click.
2. A ship's past routes and/or frequently navigated routes, which were previously unrecorded, will be made known through big data-based analysis that fully reflects the ship's characteristics and general routing patterns.
3. Invisible voices will be made visible through an automatic transcription system based on voice recognition.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

To take an example from the past, the Hebei Spirit oil tanker mass oil spill accident took place in Daesan, Republic of Korea, in 2007, which has been recorded as South Korea's worst oil spill ever, amounting to 12,547㎘ of crude oil. The investigation has revealed that the root cause of the accident was communication failures between the VTS Center and Hebei Spirit which were on different VHF channels (VHF Channel 12 and 14, respectively). Therefore, the communication efforts from the VTS Center in taking preventive actions were not able to reach the vessel.

Another national maritime disaster was that of the Sewol ferry, which took the lives of more than three hundred people near the coast of Jindo in 2014. The ferry was not on the designated VHF channel (Jindo VTS on Channel 68), but was instead on the channel of a different VTS area (Jeju VTS on Channel 12). This caused the delayed actions of emergency response teams and initial critical rescue time was, unfortunately, lost. Such mega-scale casualties did not only happen on Korean domestic waters controlled by VTS Centers; it has been reported that 19 out of 46 cases (22%) were caused by “no response” from the vessel on VHF communication.

The significant problems identified through past marine accidents raised a series of "what if" questions such as "what if VTS operators were able to identify that Sewol ferry had not been on the right VHF channel in advance?", "what if requests to stand by on the right channel had been able to be made?", and "what if the first rescue assistance request had been made to the right VTS Center or Jindo VTS?“

These questions have been further expanded to consider the prevention of any possible systematic failure and even human errors caused by VTS operators, by asking "what if there had been a system to give a warning alarm to a VTS operator when Sewol ferry had altered her course by a big angle within a very short period?” and “what if there had been an automatic VHF voice communication logbook to record all of the verbal pieces of evidence exchanged in the worsening navigational situation for further investigation?”

To address the issue, systematic or hardware changes had been continuously made, specifically in terms of organisational reforms, the expansion of VTS services to cover a more extensive national waters, and reinforcement of education and training. However, the innovation and advancement of the VHF radio system still did not see any remarkable progress.

With these efforts, highly innovative and reformative actions will be taken as follows:
1) Invisible and unidentifiable VHF communication becomes visible in real time with one click (e.g., the current VHF channel that the other party is on, and the technical status of the other party's VHF radio equipment (e.g., volume and power on/off), which prevents delay in search and rescue response time.
2) A ship's past routes and/or frequently navigated routes, which were previously unrecorded, will be made known through big data-based analysis that fully reflects the ship's characteristics and general routing patterns. This analysis will enable navigators and VTS operators to make prompt decisions by providing information on abnormal patterns of navigation and accident risk sources. This system is far more advanced than the existing one, which only analyses the risk of collision by calculating the speed and direction of the vessel.
3) Invisible voices will be made visible through an automatic transcription system based on voice recognition. This will lighten the cumbersome administrative burden to create accident transcription records requested by media, the national assembly, and investigation agency, for example. Furthermore, a high level of objectivity in transcription can be ensured as the first step of a transparent marine investigation process.

When this project gets a chance to be developed in close cooperation with and supported by the OECD, it will be expected that this innovative high-end technology can be shared with other nations in a highly expedited time frame, and all VHF radio conditions both on vessels and shores can be monitored continuously. Furthermore, the big data-based analysis of a ship's routing pattern will directly contribute to the prevention of marine accidents.

This project was selected as "Promotion of Public Services through Information and Communications Technologies, 2019”, a position coveted among regional and national government bodies (15 selected out of 142).
As a result, a pilot installation was first conducted at a national level on one VTS Center and 50 merchant vessels.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

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Year: 2019
Level of government: National/Federal government

Status:

  • Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
  • Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity

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