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Inmarsat casts RescueNET as the future of Search and Rescue

While geopolitical tensions ensured that one risk to shipping played out in the full media glare over the summer of 2019, quiet but profound change was being brought to the emergency services that keep around 1.6 million seafarers safe day in, day out. 

{mprestriction ids="1,2"} Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) in Riga, Klaipeda and Sweden’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) undertook an exercise in the Baltic Sea over the summer deploying a new Search and Rescue service that will be pivotal in the future of Maritime Safety.

As the emergency services of the seas and oceans, MRCCs come to the aid of seafarers when they need it most; without the services they provide, the oceans would claim countless lives. The ‘Dynamic Mercy 2019’ exercise offered the opportunity to put RescueNET through its paces - the free service offered by Inmarsat for which over 33 countries have already signed up. MRCCs Riga and Klaipeda were amongst the first to adopt this new innovative system.

Inmarsat has been providing maritime safety services for more than 40 years, ensuring that seafarers are able to contact vital emergency services at a push of a button when things go wrong. However, RescueNET represents a significant advance, providing MRCCs and the ships they serve with enhanced messaging capabilities and – where every second counts – reducing the time taken to coordinate a rescue operation.

The RescueNET service comes as an addition to the Global Maritime Distress Safety Service services mandated by International Maritime Organisation (IMO), for which Inmarsat’s latest Fleet Safety service is already approved. As the maritime world’s first fully end to end IP-based safety system, Fleet Safety was approved by IMO last year and is already enhancing GMDSS.

Today, when the Distress button is pressed on a Fleet Safety terminal, the closest MRCC not only receives an alarm showing the vessel’s information, position, course, speed and the Distress type; it prioritises communication between the vessel and MRCC in the satellite network. Furthermore, the MRCC can broadcast the Distress Alert Relay via Inmarsat SafetyNET II direct to vessels operating within a designated area equipped with Inmarsat C, Mini C and Fleet Safety terminals.

Going beyond these capabilities, RescueNET has been developed to reflect technological advances in connectivity, delivering them to users where they matter most. For example, the service includes Distress Chat, a real time (text) chat interface with full Distress priority on the network enabling multiple MRCCs and vessels to communicate ‘live’ during the SAR operation. Information is stored and can be retrieved for post operation analysis.

Other enhancements relate to better use of data: RescueNET offers MRCCs vital access to Inmarsat databases, in order to retrieve vessel contact information that can be invaluable as part of SAR. Again, users can now tap into the Rescue Coordination Centre Database to share information and status data provided by other MRCCs. Attention has also been given to user-friendliness: ResecueNET shows the location of the distress vessel and nearby vessels on an interactive map, while alerts and messages can be downloaded in a pre-formatted report and Excel spreadsheet for operational report creating.

The enhanced functionality was very much in evidence as part of the Dynamic Mercy 2019 exercise, but the Baltic trial was significant for reasons other than its efficient coordination of a range of surface vessels, fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. The exercise took place at the limits of VHF coverage, often requiring the use of MF/HF radio communications between maritime rescue assets and the coordinating RCC.

During the operation, MRCC Klaipeda experienced a loss of VHF and MF/HF communications. However, because MRCC Riga maintained stable communications with the on-scene co-ordinator and participating surface units throughout, RescueNET enabled information to be relayed via the Distress Chat function, so that Klaipeda remained a reliable additional link throughout the exercise.

“The use of Distress chat keeps the operations room quieter and considerably reduces the amount of time MRCC personnel time would have to spend making long phone calls,” comments Vladimirs Sadoha of the Latvian Naval Coast Guard Service MRCC Riga. “The MRCC could quickly list important information, like the casualty description, assisting units, call signs, etc, whereas by phone many terms must be spelt out.”

Distress chat also allows MRCC personnel to retrieve necessary operational information, Mr Sadoha notes: “In a real Search and Rescue event, the RCC could quickly put up a broadcast to vessels in the designated area, asking them to assist, keep a sharp lookout, etc. Distress Chat also enables easier post-event analysis, for an exercise or a real operation.”

With 33 administrations already registered, it will not be long before RescueNET is supporting real world SAR, and there are other practical reasons why uptake is expected to be rapid.

One will be RescueNET’s position within the existing Inmarsat infrastructure: if a Fleet Safety Distress Alert is sent to an MRCC that is off-line, for example, the system will automatically redirect the alert to a geographically defined alternative MRCC. Again, Inmarsat’s Network Operations Centre team receives notification of all distress alerts and monitors MRCC responses: if the alert has not been answered within a specified time, Inmarsat will call the nearest MRCC to request urgent assistance.

Another reason is that, while conventional SAR systems can be very costly to install and maintain, RescueNET does not require any specialised equipment and is effectively free to SAR authorities around the world. {/mprestriction}

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    “As a Certified Application Provider, we will be constantly developing new features to generate increasingly powerful tools for the maritime market,” said i4sea CEO Bruno Balbi. “Working with a company like Inmarsat is really a great deal for i4sea and this is the first smart system that integrates in a single platform, all the essential tools to support decision making regarding vessel’s maneuvers and port terminal’s operations,” he said.

    Six integrated tools are offered and includes services such as ocean and weather hyperlocal forecasts, dynamic draft prediction, terminal efficiency analytics and analysis and prediction of siltation or erosion dynamics of the seabed.

    “We are delighted to be working with such an innovative start-up such as i4Sea, a company we worked with as part of the Portuguese Bluetech accelerator programme earlier this year,” said Marco Cristoforo Camporeale, head of digital Solutions, Inmarsat Maritime. “

    “This tie-up will allow ship operators and managers to both route plan and improve terminal efficiency and this is all achieved through the i4sea application on Fleet Data and via a secure platform that is fully scalable, fleet-wide and now commercially available on both Fleet Xpress and FleetBroadband,” said Mr Camporeale.

    Currently, i4sea's clients include Brazilian companies such as TECON Salvador (Wilson, Sons), Açu Petróleo, CSN Coal and Ore Terminal, Cotegipe Port, Bahia’s Maritime Authority, Itajaí Port, Enseada, among others. There are also international contracts with the ports of Leixões and Sines, in Portugal.

     

  • Fleet Xpress chosen for Nekton ocean research project

    Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress has been chosen to provide the connectivity backbone enabling images captured by the deep ocean research institute, Nekton from the floor of the Indian Ocean to be transmitted to audiences worldwide.

    The Nekton Institute is an independent, not-for-profit research institute working in collaboration with the University of Oxford. It aims to accelerate the scientific exploration and protection of the oceans.

    The maritime high-speed broadband service provided connectivity to relay broadcast images from Nekton’s submersible off the Seychelles last year. Along with Associated Press, Sky News and Sonardyne, it won the 2019 IBC Innovation Award for Content Distribution and the 2020 Royal Television Society News Technology Award.

    The 2020 mission entitled ‘First Descent – Midnight Zone’ will include a 35-day long voyage starting in mid-March exploring biodiversity around the Maldives, Seychelles and the High Seas. Video, audio and - for the first time - data will be transmitted from the deepest parts of the High Seas in the Indian Ocean to the research vessel Pressure Drop, then relayed via Fleet Xpress to marine science projects focusing on sustainable oceans.

    “The ocean is a key part of each Maldivian,” said president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of Maldives. “71 per cent rely on the ocean for their primary source of income. We have committed to a 5-year initiative to advance ocean protection and sustainably develop the blue economy. This expedition will help us establish the long-term sustainability of our economic growth, livelihoods and jobs through establishing marine protected areas to build ocean resilience”

    Deep ocean locations are often also the farthest from shoreside support. For high-tech research vessels monitoring and managing subsea activities today, reliable connectivity is becoming an operational as well as a safety need.

    “For all practical purposes, until now it has not been possible for research vessels in remote seas to transmit large quantities of data back to base in real time, let alone stream images suitable for high-definition TV broadcast,” said Peter Broadhurst, senior vice president, Inmarsat. “Nekton’s decision to work with Inmarsat has changed that.”

    Pressure Drop’s video-streaming capability has already been proven through her role in the ‘Five Deeps Expedition’, supporting the world’s only manned submersible able to descend to full ocean depth (11,000m). For its new mission, data from submersibles will feed into the 2022 Indian Ocean Summit, where Seychelles and Maldivian governments, and ‘First Descent’ partners seek to create a sustainable management plan for 2,000,000km2 of ocean.

    Part of the Pressure Drop project also sees Inmarsat installing Fleet Data, the maritime industry's first secure IoT platform, which extracts data from sensors and uploads it to a secure central cloud-based database for easy access with no additional airtime cost. Its use will enable the first-ever transmissions of water chemistry and geophysics datasets.

    Fleet Data will also allow scientific research to be shared onto an open source platform, with processed datasets made available so that registered marine scientists around the world can participate in a virtual Hackathon to interrogate data and publish findings within two weeks. All datasets will be blockchain-coded to ensure security, transparency, and decentralisation.

    “One of the biggest issues is that it can take months or even years to publish data analysis, by which time data may have less relevance and application. By using Fleet Data we can publish data in an instant via an Inmarsat API: this is ground-breaking for marine science and could accelerate the analysis and publication of ocean data,” said Oliver Steed, chief executive, and Nekton.

    Inmarsat’s yachting partner YachtProjects designed, installed and commissioned Pressure Drop’s management and communications systems, including ECDIS, CCTV and open port capability.

    Nekton’s research, sampling and survey technologies fully integrate with shipboard systems, with the YachtProjects’ Seawall package controlling the shipboard network and shaping bandwidth and streaming, with the terminal hardware provided by Intellian Technologies.

     

     

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