SOS – Safety Of the Sailor, a new and simplified AIS

fig1SOS – Safety Of the Sailor – a new app for iOS and android that provides information on all regulations and limits to sailing in real-time and permits timely and effective distress calls.

Francesco Baratta

Following the recent ratification of the protocol of understanding between the Campania Maritime Command and the Italian Navigation Institute, experiments were carried out on the project presented to the General Harbourmasters Command for a system of navigation and monitoring design mainly for yachting.
The project was the idea of a number of experts in the sector: engineer Giosuè Grimaldi (Istituto Italiano Navigazione),  Francesco Silvestre (Tech-Tron),  Antonino De Luise (Tech-Tron),  C.F. (CP) Pil. Pasquale Palescandolo (Harbourmasters Corps), architect Francesco Baratta (As.Pro.Na.Di. – Regione Campania) coordinated by the Direttore Marittimo C.A. (CP) Antonio Basile.

The experiment
The results of the experiment, carried out also with the collaboration of the Pozzuoli (Napoli) Naval League and with tests on the water, were more than satisfying and were much appreciated both by the users and the operators of the Corps of Harbourmasters. The “alpha” phase of experimentation on the system has practically finished. In this final phase the operators of the Operations Room of the Campania Command were flanked in the monitoring phase by the company that produced the software architecture and which continues to supply the hardware needed for the static and dynamic database. Currently the system offers several functions which, for simplicity, we will divide into two subsets, the yachtsman/user and the Harbourmaster/monitoring centre. The user (yachtsman, fisherman, professional operator) can access the system using a mobile device (smartphone or tablet, both android and iOS) as with any other app. Once the app is downloaded, on condition the user subscribes to an indemnification clause and provides personal data (which will in any case remain secret and be used solely for the user safety) including indication of the “base” port and the yacht, the yachtsman will have as aids to navigation a visual and audio alarm if he approaches waters disciplined by restrictions. These restrictions may be temporary (ordinances, notices for seamen et cetera) or virtually permanent (protected marine areas). It is also possible to read the entire content of the restriction or its salient points.
This information, which is often ignored by many yachtsmen, is synchronised on the smartphone automatically without any intervention by the user. When the limitation expires, it is automatically removed.
In addition to this function, the yachtsman can send preformatted distress messages which will be both geographically referenced (thanks to the GPS of the mobile) and referred to the individual in difficulty. These messages are preformatted in three categories of “distress” or “notification”:

  • Generic distress (customisable)
  • Medical emergency distress (illness, accident)
  • Technical emergencies due to faults or mechanical breakdown

Using this system, the yachtsman can also send further information including images that could help the Harbourmaster for a number of reasons (issuing of a notice to seamen, helping a unit in difficulty, maritime policing operations, pollution et cetera).

The system
The Harbourmaster, as monitoring centre and generator of marine information, will be able to monitor yachts exactly as happens with the AIS system in real-time on the monitors of the operational assistance centre and also contact by telephone the person seeking assistance to obtain confirmation and further details for managing the incident. In addition, it will receive from the system (denominated by the acronym SOS, Safety Of the Sailor), the distress message with geographical references and identity of the yachtsman, though the system does not pretend to re-place traditional means of communication but work alongside it in a more evolved and complete form as happened with the spread of mobile telephony.
The system not only guarantees an additional distress communication, which is free and needs no enabling or costly apparatus, but also ensures faster intervention times, verifying whether the emergency is real or a false alarm, thus making it possible for the Coastguard to save resources, since it is sometimes involved in false alarms or long and costly searches.
Currently, the system has stored all the protected marine areas and ordinances in force within the territorial limits of the Campania region and data for the other regions is being developed.

The app can be downloaded free from www.sos-mare.it, which can also be accessed from the Naples Coastguard site under the heading ordinances: http://www.guardiacostiera.gov.it/napoli/Pages/SOS-App.aspx

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