Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
Sierra Leone with one of Africa’s busiest territorial waters wants to improve its capabilities for digital implementation of key IMO instruments for navigation and safety at sea.
VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) is an extension of the mandatory AIS technology and has been developed as a means for maritime digitalisation as specified in the IMO e-Navigation Strategy Implementation Plan.
In mid-June an online signing ceremony was held where the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration signed a Letter of Intent with Sternula for the use of its VDES capacity.
According to Acting Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration, Sama Gamanga: ‘There is a great potential in implementing this satellite-based e-Navigation technology to boost the entire country’s maritime sector. The new relationship will help the country gain a better and more accurate picture of the traffic in our waters, which in these time of maritime insecurity is an urgent necessity.’
CEO at Sternula, Lars Moltsen commented: ‘We are very pleased to start this second collaboration in West Africa in just a few months. At Sternula, we are currently building a satellite network for VDES, which is going to be a shared infrastructure for all nations in the World who wants to be part of it. In parallel, we are working closely with the first-movers, like Sierra Leone, to implement our systems and capacity to best meet your needs, and I am looking much forward to meeting you soon in Sierra Leone to discuss these needs in more detail.’
Increased collaboration and harmonisation
A significant proportion of ships in Sierra Leone waters are sailing under Danish flag. Denmark has always been a strong maritime nation and is working for increased global collaboration on the maritime sector.
Tom Nørring, the Danish Ambassador to Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Conakry, and Togo, who took part in the signing ceremony reflected: ‘At the Danish Embassy in West Africa, we are very pleased with this new collaboration between a local maritime administration and a Danish tech company, and we congratulate both sides. We would like to invite the Sierra Leone government to collaborate with Denmark on a zero-emission strategy for the maritime sector, which is a top priority for the Danish government.’
Development of the VDES technology into an ITU and IMO standard has been ongoing in IALA for the past decade.
Omar Frits Eriksson, Deputy Secretary General at IALA added: ‘IALA is working with the goals of international harmonisation of marine aids to navigation and supporting systems and capacity building. We congratulate the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration and Sternula with this collaboration which is great step towards harmonization and capacity building on top of the new VDES standard.’
The Result of Years of Research and Development
The VDES technology is an extension to the popular AIS system which is today installed in more than 200,000 vessels worldwide. VDES adds more than thirty times extra data capacity than AIS, much better security, and two-way communication via satellite.
Jens Dalsgaard Nielsen, Associate Professor at Aalborg University added: ‘At Aalborg University, we have been working on space technology and AIS for the past 25 years. It is very exciting for me to be part of this development towards VDES, which is the future standard for maritime digital communication, in particular as a cost-effective tool for the maritime authorities globally.’
Lars Moltsen concluded with: ‘In Sternula, we know that we stand on the shoulders of those who have built the existing standards and communication systems. We are proud to take a leading role in working towards new and better standards that enables maritime administration to implement effective systems for a higher level of safety at sea. Sternula will be offering its VDE-SAT infrastructure enabling VDES on a global scale from 2023.
Sternula is Denmark’s first commercial satellite operator. The company offers global VDE-SAT connectivity for maritime authorities and industries using its own fleet of advanced micro-satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) which will be operational from 2022.
At Sternula an active role is taken with global maritime stakeholders to standardize VDES under IALA, IMO, and ITU.
Captain Allan Gray our former President, now at the Port of Halifax, was in Rotterdam recently for the World Hydrogen Summit and the Smart Digital Ports Conference in mid-May.
While there he managed to meet IHMA Project Officer, Captain Ben van Scherpenzeel, to exchange pleasantries and to discuss the standardization of terms and so forth and other port-related matters of mutual interest.
Allan sends good wishes to all at IHMA, trusting that we are safe and well and regrets that, sadly, he will not be able to meet us at the IHMA Congress in Kuala Lumpur next month.
Zero emission ferries and vessels are one step closer to being a reality, as Maritime Minister Robert Courts on 24 May confirmed £12 million funding to accelerate the research and development of zero emission maritime technologies.
Now in its second round, the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC*) was born out of the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan to tackle carbon emissions. The latest funding cements the UK’s position as world leaders in clean maritime technologies and supports the creation of thousands of skilled jobs across the UK.
The CMDC is one of the first initiatives from UK SHORE, a new unit launched to make the maritime sector greener. Dedicated to creating a world free from shipping emissions, UK SHORE will work with industry to tackle numerous shipping emission challenges.