SA's maritime response centre opens

Thursday, October 22, 2009
By: 
Edwin Tshivhidzo

Pretoria - South Africa will now be able to comply with maritime regulations emanating from the International Maritime Organisation, thanks to the newly launched Centre for Sea Watch and Response.

"We have established this centre to ensure South Africa complies with its own maritime regulations but also with our international obligations.

"The centre will also in due course be suitably capacitated with maritime communications and information systems to enable it to communicate directly with all ships at sea within the areas of our responsibility," said Transport Minister S'bu Ndebele on Thursday.

The centre, which was launched in Cape Town, will among other things, able to identify and track vessels up to 1 000 nautical miles from the country's coastline, through its Long Range Identification and Tracking System (LRIT).

This system will enable the Maritime Authority to communicate directly with ships, improving the quality of information exchanged with the vessel's Master who at all times has to be fully appraised of any situation which may develop.

This communication, the minister said, is necessary to improve the centre's response time to maritime incidents.

The data from LRIT, which is automatically transmitted every six hours, can also be displayed on an electronic chart which is accessible via a secure website and only with an authorised username and password.

Once a vessel is identified, full details of the vessel can be accessed via a ship's database.

The centre has access to the Automatic Identification System (AIS) data of ships on the coast and in the areas around the major ports of South Africa. This means the vessel's every move can be tracked.