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Getting on-board with ACCSEAS 31.10.14

Bryony Chinnery takes to the seas…

Many people will be familiar with the experience of taking a ferry to nearby countries, but this week, I was able to enjoy ferry travel in a whole new way – right from the bridge of the ship.

Proof has worked with the General Lighthouse Authorities (Trinity House) in the UK for almost two years, and has recently been working with them to support the ACCSEAS programme – a collaborative project supporting improved maritime access to the North Sea. ACCSEAS consists of 11 maritime partners in six countries across the North Sea region.

The project has been developing a number of technologies which could be implemented by mariners to help them to navigate their vessel. This includes new planning dashboards that use up–to-the minute information to choose the best route for the ship, as well as highlighting areas where a ship cannot go (e.g. due to water depth or an incident in that area). Other systems the project has developed include Resilient Position Navigation Timing, a back-up system that can mitigate the vulnerability of GPS, and augmented reality displays to help increase situational awareness.

The ACCSEAS teams have been working on these technologies for more than a year, and this week the testing was taken from simulation, to a real-life application on a P&O passenger ferry from Rotterdam to Hull – a key milestone in the programme.

Getting to the ferry, however, was a mission in itself. Being maritime-orientated, the ACCSEAS team and I took an entirely ship-and-car-based route – visiting Harwich and the Hook of Holland on our way to Europort in Rotterdam.

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Once on board, we were taken to meet the captain and crew on the bridge of the ship – where the demonstration equipment was set up – and took part in a briefing with the ship’s crew. As this was the first live demonstration of the technology, it was important for the crew to understand its capabilities and for us to log how they interacted with. After setting up and grabbing some dinner, we all headed off to our cabins on board to get some sleep.

By 3:30am we were all up and ready to take our places and work through the live scenario of the ship reaching Humber. The team at the Vessel Traffic Station on land had some situations prepared for us and fed us information as though incidents were unfurling ahead.

Being on the bridge of a packed passenger ship in the pitch black of night was a surreal but truly inspiring experience. Once your eyes adapt, you begin to notice so many small details from the panoramic windows – lights on shore, lights on boats, lights on buoys and even the difference in colour of different areas of the sea or sky (admittedly they are all shades of black-blue!).

As the sun rose over the Port of Hull, we were all feeling great following a successful night’s work on board the ship and some fantastic feedback from the First Officer who took part in the demonstration – but after three ferries in 24 hours and less than four hours of sleep, we were all happy to see the shores of Blighty once more!

The trip was a wonderful success and the ACCSEAS project has pushed forward to a new stage, all in-line with the end goal of the conference in February, where the team will share their key learnings and outputs from the three-year programme. It was great to be there to see the technology in action with a real ship’s crew.

– Bryony Chinnery

If you have any comments or would like to know more about the work done by Accseas please email me at bryony@proofcommunication.com

See my profile on our website here.