The Use of Portable Pilot Units (PPU) Lee Alexander, MJ Casey


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The use of electronic navigation equipment onboard maritime vessels continues to increase, worldwide. The results of a recent Canadian study provide clear evidence that maritime pilots know what types of equipment to use -- and how to use them.

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  • Dr. Lee Alexander is a Research Associate Professor in Electronic Charting.
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  • The Use of Portable Pilot Units (PPU) Lee Alexander, MJ Casey

    1. 1. Use of Portable Piloting Units by Maritime Pilots Dr. Lee Alexander University of New Hampshire Michael J. Casey IIC Technologies
    2. 2. Portable Piloting Unit (PPU)
    3. 3. Background <ul><li>On St. Lawrence River, a federal government initiative to improve navigation safety by increased use of electronic chart-related equipment and services. </li></ul><ul><li>St. Lawrence River E-Navigation Project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Voyage preparation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Voyage and portable navigation system </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Voyage condition analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><li>For Laurentian Pilots, to use PPUs with: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Electronic charting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ENC data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>AIS broadcast </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Internet access </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. <ul><li>Laurentian Pilotage Authority and Port of Montreal commissioned a study: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Find out what other Pilotage organizations are using for PPUs. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Investigate options on financing, ownership, and operational/technical aspects. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use results to make informed decisions on acquisition and use. </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Study Approach <ul><li>Financial – What is the cost? Who pays? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Initial cost of components </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ongoing operational costs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Operational financing options </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Organizational – Who is in charge? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ownership options </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Legal and regulatory considerations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Operational – What is the optimum type equipment? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technical requirements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use in relation to other shipboard nav equipment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct/indirect benefits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Estimated life-cycle costs </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Study Methods <ul><li>Seek advice on key persons to contact </li></ul><ul><li>Develop a List of Questions to ask </li></ul><ul><li>Conduct telephone interviews </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Conference call; often with two pilots from same pilotage organization </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interviewed 20 pilots : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Canada </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>USA </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Europe </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Australia/New Zealand </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. Findings <ul><li>No single PPU system is capable of meeting all needs. </li></ul><ul><li>Consensus we found pertains more to process of choosing or designing a system. </li></ul><ul><li>Each Pilotage organization: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Formed a group of seasoned pilots. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Determined what are the crucial navigation-related pilotage issues in their region. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focused attention on most important issue. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Built a PPU system to solve that specific problem. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Worked in cooperation with port authorities and other government agencies. </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Fraser River <ul><li>Main Concern : the river bed is constantly </li></ul><ul><li>changing… </li></ul><ul><li>PPU system: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use sounding data 12-24 hrs after it is acquired by Port Authority. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Apply as overlay on chart data. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rely on real-time water level information. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Establish partnerships with port authority & public works. </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Fraser River Pilotage
    10. 10. Fraser River Pilotage
    11. 11. Fraser River Pilotage
    12. 12. Colombia River <ul><li>Main Concern : knowing the location and </li></ul><ul><li>movement of other vessels </li></ul><ul><li>PPU system: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use of AIS is crucial. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PPU computes a “meeting point” (time and location for ownship other vessel(s). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use recent dredging and channel survey information obtained from Army Corps of Engineers. </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Electronic Chart + AIS = Decision Support Source : Capt. Paul Adams, Columbia River Pilot Assoc. Display of Portable Pilot Unit (PPU) used by Columbia River Pilots
    14. 15. Halifax Harbour <ul><li>Main Concern : air draft underneath two suspension </li></ul><ul><li> bridges </li></ul><ul><li>PPU system: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Relies on DGPS mounted on bridge to provide precise height (centimeter level, 24/7/365) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Employs real-time and tidal model information to forecast predicted water levels </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Uses AIS binary broadcast to send information to PPU </li></ul></ul>
    15. 16. Halifax Harbour
    16. 17. Halifax Harbour
    17. 18. Tampa Bay Pilots
    18. 19. Delaware Bay
    19. 20. European Ports <ul><li>Main Concern : maneuvering/ docking VLCCs and LNGs </li></ul><ul><li>PPU system: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use state-of -art DGPS receivers (dual-antenna & RTK ) for positioning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Laser-gyro sensors for rate-of-turn and closing distance. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have both “Full” system PPUs (for docking) and “Lite” for transiting </li></ul></ul>
    20. 21. Port of Antwerp
    21. 22. PPU Equipment <ul><li>Hardware </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Of 500 PPUs surveyed, over one-half are ruggedized notebooks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Most pilots allowed to chose their own equipment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Screen size 10-15” ; 15” is most popular </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Most use ship’s power, but carry batteries (3 hrs) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Weight not a major concern; use both hard & soft packs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Software </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- No consensus on what to use (widely differing views) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Most software is “customized” to meet specific needs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- N. Am pilots prefer simple displays, but with a wide selection of options (based on current situation or task at hand) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>EC Data </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Most use S-57 ENC or RNC data provided by hydrographic office </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- But, rely on much larger scale data provided by other government agencies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Innovative use of other geo-spatial info (i.e., Google Earth) </li></ul></ul>
    22. 23. Sensor Interfaces <ul><li>GPS/DGPS </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Most pilots use ship’s GPS/DGPS position provided by Pilot Plug </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Many carry their own GPS/DGPS units and will deploy – if needed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- European pilots use RTK GPS for precise docking </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Heading </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Obtain heading info via Pilot Plug </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Some now use special dual-antenna DGPS for heading </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- European docking pilots use rate-of-turn sensors </li></ul></ul><ul><li>AIS </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- All pilots access via Pilot Plug </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- But, Pilot Plug often performs poorly (wiring problems, wrong baud rates, poor mechanical design); this is improving. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>VTS – Only pilots in very busy ports feel a need to integrate VTS info </li></ul><ul><li>Internet access – Very few want to access while underway; see future benefits, but currently have “wait and see” attitude. </li></ul><ul><li>Wireless or hardwired – Widely differing views as to what is suitable; among wireless supporters, two different camps ( Bluetooth & WiFi ) </li></ul>
    23. 24. Financial <ul><li>Most pilots use conventional, notebook computers costing ~$2,500. </li></ul><ul><li>Portable DGPS: $1,000 - $3000. </li></ul><ul><li>Software: varies widely from $400 - $8,000; depends on supplier and what approach taken. </li></ul><ul><li>Docking systems: $70,000 - $80,000 </li></ul><ul><li>Hardware is owned by Pilotage Organization or separate legal entity of it. </li></ul>
    24. 25. Operational <ul><li>Once onboard, pilots have PPUs up and running within 2-3 minutes. </li></ul><ul><li>If using own DGPS, adds additional 5 minutes. </li></ul><ul><li>Updating and route planning done prior boarding. </li></ul><ul><li>Ship parameters (length, beam, draft, etc.) usually done prior to boarding. </li></ul><ul><li>Maintenance carried out yearly; with more than 30 PPUs, often have a full-time technician. </li></ul><ul><li>Some Pilotage Organizations take PPU training very seriously, while others less so. </li></ul>
    25. 26. Legal/Regulatory <ul><li>Most pilots were reluctant to discuss. </li></ul><ul><li>Any information provided was usually qualified as personal views – not policy. </li></ul><ul><li>Relatively few were overly concerned about liability issues. </li></ul><ul><li>Felt that a PPU was primarily a tool to be used in performing their job. </li></ul>
    26. 27. Main Finding <ul><li>There was no general agreement as to what is the “best” PPU. No one PPU system is capable of meeting all needs. </li></ul><ul><li>In using PPUs: </li></ul><ul><li>Maritime Pilots know what information is needed, and how to obtain and use it. </li></ul>
    27. 28. Implications for a HO <ul><li>The timeliness of the data is often more important that its accuracy or level of content. </li></ul><ul><li>Overlays of decimeter contour lines or depth areas are relied on more than the information contained in ENCs. </li></ul><ul><li>Specialty ENCs are widely used and made for specific uses (e.g. docking charts) </li></ul><ul><li>Pilots can be a constant source of new information about the quality of the chart data as they are often the first mariners to use it. </li></ul><ul><li>Qualifying the data in terms of accuracy and currency is now perhaps a HO’s most important role in promoting the use of electronic charts. </li></ul><ul><li>The evolution of the nautical chart is underway and being led by mariners who are largely unconstrained by tradition. </li></ul>
    28. 29. <ul><li>To obtain a copy of the complete Report: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Use of Portable Piloting Units by Maritime Pilots” </li></ul><ul><li>Go to: http:// </li></ul><ul><li>Enter: your e-mail address </li></ul><ul><li>Click on: Download </li></ul><ul><li>Look in folder: “ Use of PPU Study ” </li></ul>