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USCG issues Safety Alert on GPS outages

The US Coast Guard (USCG) has issued a Safety Alert reminding vessel operators of the potential threat of GPS jamming or interference, and urged the industry to be aware of the contingency measures that should be taken on board in the case of an outage.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}In Safety Alert 01-16, USCG notes that intentional jamming or unintentional signal interference can come from a number of sources, and that it is “important to remember to use all available means for navigation and maintain proficiency so you can still navigate should your primary GPS fail.”

“This past summer, multiple outbound vessels from a non-US port suddenly lost GPS signal reception. The net effect was various alarms and a loss of GPS input to the ship’s surface search radar, gyro units and Electronic Chart Display & Information System (ECDIS), resulting in no GPS data for position fixing, radar over ground speed inputs, gyro speed input and loss of collision avoidance capabilities on the radar display,” the Alert says.

“Fortunately, the vessels were able to safely continue their voyage using radar in heads up display, magnetic compass and terrestrial navigation. Approximately 6nm later, the vessels’ GPS units resumed operation. Although the vessels had back-up systems to allow a safe transit, the consequences could have been severe.”

“These types of events highlight the potential detrimental impact to navigation caused by GPS interference or jamming and the importance in understanding how your vessel’s or facility’s equipment could be impacted by a loss of GPS signal.”

USCG says that changes in the GPS signal, such as intermittent loss or incorrect data, should be watched for as an indicator of potential problems, and commercial operators are reminded to contact authorities should navigation or other equipment such as AIS become impaired due to an outage.{/mprestriction}

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