New hi-tech system to track Gulf ships
Manama, April 1, 2008
Bahrain and its GCC neighbours are beefing up coastal security with a new, hi-tech system to track ships.
The global tracking system will also enable countries to pinpoint their own commercial ships anywhere in the world, at any time.
It will also help in search-and-rescue operations by giving instant information on shipping in the area.
New International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulations mean ships will have to be fitted with a Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) system, that will allow them to be tracked 1,000 miles from the coastline.
The long-range identification and tracking of ships came into force at the beginning of the year and will become fully operational by December 31.
'LRIT increases the transparency of vessels sailing the high seas on international voyages,' said Bahrain's General Organisation of Sea Ports deputy chairman Eid Abdulla.
'It provides for the detection, classification, identification and tracking of co-operative vessels to enable improved maritime domain awareness and a general understanding of vessel traffic in specific areas of interest.'
The LRIT system will entitle governments who have adopted the new regulations to be entitled to receive reports on identification and position of ships registered to that member state, wherever the ship is located.
They will also be able to receive the same information about ships that have declared their intention to enter a port in a member state's territory; ships passing within 1,000 miles of the coastline of a member state's territory and ships in an area where a search and rescue operation is underway.
All of this information will be received, upon request, through a system of national, regional, co-operative and international LRIT Data Centres using, where necessary, the LRIT International Data Exchange.
Countries with access to LRIT data are required to respect the commercial confidentiality and sensitivity of the information they receive.
They must also protect the information they receive from unauthorised access or disclosure and use it in a manner consistent with international law.
Abdulla was speaking yesterday at the opening of a two-day regional seminar on the Enhancement of Coastal Security, LRIT of Ships, and Automatic Identification Systems at the Diplomat Radisson SAS, Hotel, Residence and Spa.
More than 50 participants from the Middle East and North Africa are attending the event, which is held under the patronage of Shaikh Daij bin Salman Al Khalifa, who is president of Customs and Chairman of the General Organisation of Sea Ports.
It is hosted by the General Organisation of Sea Ports in association with the IMO.
The seminar aims to help countries implement the new tracking requirements at the policy and operational level.
It is also an opportunity for countries to discuss whether they will establish a national, regional or co-operative LRIT Data Centre.
'LRIT will enhance security and safety at sea and enhance the marine environment because we will know the position and route of the ship,' said General Organisation of Sea Ports director general Hassan Ali Al Majed.
'It's mainly for commercial ships of 150 gross tonnage and above, not for fishing vessels.'
Nicolaos Charalambous, deputy director of sub-division for maritime security facilitation, maritime safety division, IMO, said that since the 'Safety of Life at Sea Convention' of 1974, ships had been required to be fitted with an automatic identification system (AIS).
This provides the identity of a ship, its position, course and speed and enhances maritime security.
The ship-to-ship range of AIS is 10 to 15 nautical miles, while ship-to-shore is 20 to 30 nautical miles.
In 2002, IMO introduced further requirements for the carriage of AIS to facilitate the use of AIS as a tool to enhance coa