Long range ship tracking has arrived
By Capt. Jake DesVergers | International Yacht Bureau
The desire for long-range identification and tracking (LRIT) of ships has been on the regulatory agenda since late 2001. It was discussed during the development of the special measures to enhance maritime security adopted by the 2002 Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Conference.
However, in view of the complexities involved at that time, it was recognized by the International Maritime Organization that it would be practically impossible to complete the work by December 2002. The December deadline date was enacted to include appropriate provisions in the comprehensive maritime security measures that entered into force on July 1, 2004, the most well-known of the security measures being the ISPS Code.
The regulation, found in Chapter V of SOLAS, entered into force on Jan. 1, 2008, and applies to ships constructed on or after Dec. 31, 2008, with a phased-in implementation schedule for ships constructed before Dec. 31, 2008.
LRIT is intended to be operational, with respect to the transmission of LRIT information by ships, no later than the end of this year. There is an exemption for ships operating exclusively in sea area A1, since such ships are already fitted with an Automatic Identification System (AIS).
The regulation also identifies which authorities may have access to LRIT information. These include government agencies and coastal states. It is not available to the general public.
The LRIT information ships will be required to transmit include the ship’s identity, location and date, and time of the position. There will be no interface between LRIT and AIS equipment; they are independent of each other.
An important distinction apart from range: AIS is an open-broadcast system; LRIT-derived data will be available only to entitled recipients. Confidentiality safeguards have been built in. SOLAS Contracting Governments will be entitled to information about ships navigating within 1,000 nautical miles of their coast.
LRIT equipment must be carried by internationally trading ships of 300 gross tons or greater. For yachts constructed on or after Dec. 31, 2008, it must be installed and operational upon initial delivery. For yachts built before Dec. 31, 2008, there are phased-in deadlines.
For commercial yachts trading in sea areas A1, A2, and A3, it must be installed by the first radio survey after Dec. 31, 2008. For yachts trading in seas areas A1, A2, A3, and A4, it must be installed by the first radio survey after Dec. 31, 2009. If you are unsure of the sea area you operate within, review your yacht’s Cargo Ship Safety Radio Certificate. If still unsure, contact issuing organization for that certificate.
For private yachts, it has not yet been clarified if they must comply with this regulation. As of press time, the maritime administrator for the Marshall Islands has reported that the issue is under review. Updates will be addressed in Marine Notice 2-011-25.
Requests for clarification were also made to the UK Maritime Coastguard Agency for private yachts flagged with the Red Ensign. They made reference to Marine Information Note MIN 301. Unfortunately, this MIN does not yet define applicability to privately registered yachts.
Irrespective of the final decisions issued by the various flag administrations, both private and commercial yachts should be prepared to act accordingly. Availability of this equipment and associated software appears to be limited. Remember, it is not a regulation that affects only yachts, but all ships of 300 gross tons or greater. At the end of 2007, that number was about 58,000.