Dec 252008

… so let’s talk collisions. Coincidentally two collison-related items crossed MAC’s desk on Christmas Evethat might give a glimpse of what you might find in your Christmas stocking in the future.

First was an announcement that US-based Laser Atlanta had been awarded a patent for a clip-on laser device called Sprox – ship proximity measurement system – to help prevent collisions . Developed by the US Navy for use when two vessels are manoeuvering in close quarters while under way, such as when supplies or fuel are being loaded.

Sprox consists of a widget that clips on to the ship’s rail and a display on the bridges of both vessels. The laser checks the distance of the vessels three times a second with the measurement showing up on the display.

Laser Atlanta islookinmg at commercial uses from Sprox so the time may come when you find Sprox in your socks.

Second was a paper, A CBR-Based Aproached for Ship Collision Avoidance, by researchers from Canada’s National Research Council and the Merchant Marine College at Shanghai University. CBR is Case-Based-Reasoning, finding solutions to a problem based on a database of previous events – a bit like Maritime Accident Casebook.

In this case, to readically simplify, as many ship-collision and close-call cases are categorised and fed into a computer. The computer is linked to a vessel’s navigational equipment such as AIS, Radar and GPS. When a situation occurs involving two or more shipsthe computer looks for similar events in its database and, it is hoped, finds the optimal solution to not banging into another ship.

This one is a long way from becoming a practical reality. Of course, seasoned seafarers do much the same job almost intuitively, responding to a situation in a way that mixes training, experience and that ‘gut feel’ that comes from long years at sea. With such experience in less and less supply it’s inevitable that something will need to replace the knowledge and logic of long-beard salty seafarer.

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