Arctic Maritime Safety: How to Navigate the North?

Posted by Nicole Schill on Aug 22, 2017 11:05:40 AM

How do you plot a safe course through a geographical area that changes rapidly, and dangerously? With S-AIS, of course. Maritime shipping routes through the Arctic have been a passionate discussion for centuries. Looking at a flat map of the world it’s easy to forget how close in proximity all northern countries are, but if you spin a globe and gaze down from an Arctic point of view, the distance doesn’t seem so vast. For any maritime vessel traveling through those frigid waters, ice is the number one problem. The ice that covers the Arctic is volatile; while historically it has always broken off in massive chunks to float freely and dangerously south, climate change has sped up that process, making it more challenging than ever in recent history to predict the appearance of ice flows and icebergs in waterways. Related, but a problem on its own, is that due to the restricted access explorers have had to the Arctic, topographical information is limited in comparison to most other global waterways. S-AIS can’t provide a picture of the landscape and depth of water in a traditional sense, but it can use historical data provided by the vessels that do wander through this path less traveled to create a more thorough picture.


If every tugboat, shipping vessel, icebreaker, and fishing boat that traversed through Arctic waters provides AIS data of its course, then the exact route, speeds, and time can be calculated to provide a better look at the area. This data comes in handy for researchers, national security, the shipping industry, and is particularly useful for search and rescue operations.

Efficient Arctic search and rescue on a large scale is dynamic. Policies and best practices are readied as the north demonstrates potential for increased shipping, leisure, military, and scientific traffic. Presently there are vessels of all sizes that traverse the areas, albeit fewer in number than main shipping routes, making the honing of search and rescue procedures critical, especially as ice travels further and further south than expected.  A 4-year intensive research study on climate change in the Arctic recently ran into serious delays. The Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker assigned to take researchers into the north was needed off the coast of Newfoundland; ice had broken off from the Arctic and drifted farther south than expected in June, stranding fishing boats and other ships in the area.

Which brings us back to the matter of safer seas and increased search and rescue capabilities with S-AIS. exactAIS data provides powerful ship tracking capabilities in even the most remote regions of the world. When the unexpected happens up north, marine authorities can quickly locate the exact location of the vessel in distress, choose the most efficient routes and vessels to provide aid, and warn nearby ships of imminent danger. The frigid and unrelenting conditions of the Arctic require authorities to act with immediacy and certainty.  exactEarth provides marine confidence with the most AIS satellite receivers in orbit and the only true real-time global service. Counting down to the Sept 30 Iridium NEXT launch, exactEarth wil have more than half of its real-time constellation launched by end of year. Armed with real-time data, officials can now closely monitor all Arctic shipping traffic ensuring the safest routes are followed as well as being notified immediately when ill-equipped vessels enter into the region. Overlapping coverage of the Arctic, providing a rich understanding of maritime traffic trends in the area and immediate alerting of vessels entering is being provided for the first time with exactEarth.


Topics: Arctic, Arctic Shipping, Search and Rescue, real-time vessel tracking

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