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23 Apr 2018
The issue that should be next on IMO’s agenda
Credit : TSO Bureau


"It is imperative that IMO implement sea traffic management (STM) globally, says editor Martyn Wingrove After agreeing a landmark strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions in London last week, IMO now needs to push for adoption of technology for sea traffic management. Thus far, in limited regional pilot and validation projects, STM has been shown to reduce the number of ship collisions, lower emissions and increase efficiency, and its adoption by shipping’s governing body would be a powerful demonstration that IMO has entered the digital era. An STM validation project involving around 300 ships, 13 ports and five shore-based service centres in northern Europe and the Mediterranean has achieved reductions in collisions and emissions. Last week, the Port of Rotterdam, one of the world’s largest, formally joined the STM project, further validating its importance. South Korea has also been trialling its own form of STM, under the Smart Navigation project, which demonstrates how traffic management and associated digitalisation technologies could be rolled out worldwide. How does the technology work? Communications between ships and ports is through the Maritime Connectivity Platform which was developed in Europe’s EfficienSea2 digital navigation support programme. All ships register for STM using this platform. They can then access preregistered e-navigation and e-maritime services and exchange information using the cloud-based service. Ships can electronically share their voyage plan schedules directly from their ECDIS or other navigation system with surrounding ships and ports. This automatically improves the quality and predictability of arrival information in port systems and navigation equipment on board these ships. But progress is not being made quickly enough, and now is the time to move toward global adoption. Digital, automated traffic management could be the centre of a smart marine ecosystem – where each operator has enhanced, real-time understanding of where each vessel is sailing and how they are performing. Through STM, ship captains can understand not only the position of surrounding vessels, but also their intended voyages, enabling navigation teams to adjust voyages to prevent collisions, still an all-too-common occurrence at sea. There are benefits for ports, too, in tracking ships to manage vessel arrival schedules. STM would allow ports to better organise tugs and quaysides to be ready for vessel arrivals and – in the case of overcrowding – to message ships to lower their sailing speeds to reduce waiting times. This should also lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, sulphur and nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from shipping in ports, tying in with IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 72) strategic framework on greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. Last week, the group agreed that total annual greenhouse gas emissions from shipping should fall at least by 50% by 2050, compared to 2008 levels. The European and South Korean projects have demonstrated the benefits of regional STM, and it is time IMO led the industry in developing and adopting a global system of traffic management. The boon to safety the system potentially represents is reason enough, but a global STM should be a vital component of achieving MEPC 72’s goals for a dramatic reduction in ship emissions, too."
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