Future fairways through collaboration

Collaboration is a word that is repeated continuously in discussions about the development of shipping. The different players have their own objectives and goals with regard to commercial shipping and its development. They are, however, united in the mindset that shipping should be intelligent, efficient and safe.

One of the most important stages of shipping is the development of the concept of intelligent fairways. Work on the intelligent fairway concept was initiated in the last decade, and at present three pilot projects are ongoing. The aim is that the intelligent fairways concept will benefit both those involved in maintenance of fairways, and those using the fairways.

Intelligent fairways will not only be of benefit to maritime traffic, but also to the environment.

From the point of view of maintenance of the fairways, intelligent fairways will bring digitalisation to day-to-day maintenance work, enhance fairway safety and situation awareness, improve maintenance of the infrastructure, reduce costs, and significantly increase the efficiency of operations overall. Fairway users will see an improvement in overall situation awareness and safety, as well as in monitoring of the operation of safety equipment and in smooth traffic flow.

Photo: Mika Lehtola

Intelligent fairways will not only be of benefit to maritime traffic, but also to the environment. When safety and situation awareness improve, the risk of environmental damage will also be reduced. Emission loads will decrease, as fairway maintenance vessels make fewer sea miles. It will be easier to locate detached plastic spar buoys, which will reduce the amount of plastic waste in the sea.  

Together towards one goal

Developing the concept of intelligent fairways requires close collaboration, in particular between government agencies such as the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (Väylävirasto), the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency (Traficom), and Traffic Management Finland (TFMG). Each player brings its own contribution for the table of collaboration.

The role of the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency is to develop the safety equipment and other fairway infrastructure to meet the growing data demands of the shipping industry, without forgetting their primary functions. The Väylävirasto and the TFMG, which acts as the official announcement channel for seafarers, should together develop the systems and methods for communication of the collected official data reliably to seafarers. Traficom monitors and controls the development of the systems in the role of the Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) authority. The Väylävirasto and Traficom produce the official data models of the fairways and their proximities, necessary for safe navigation.  

The concept of intelligent fairways, as many other development projects, asks for seamless collaboration and defining a common goal. We must learn from each other, for without collaboration the project cannot reach a good result. Collaboration forums like SAMK’s (Satakunta University of Applied Sciences) ISTLAB project are important examples of joint development. Development alone is like groping in the dark.

My vision is that in ten years’ time our most important fairways will be intelligent fairways.

I hope that within five years we will have a clear concept in our hands. Clarifying roles, investigating specifications and ensuring the sufficiency of all necessary data require a great deal of work. My vision is that in ten years’ time all our main fairways will be intelligent fairways.

Olli Holm, Senior Advisor, fairways, Väylävirasto

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