IMO (International Maritime Organization), which is the UN's maritime body, has been working on designing a tracking system for ships for quite some time. The system can help provide the authorities with a good overview of which vessels are approaching the facilities at any given time.
The system is called LRIT (Long Range Identification and Tracking). This is a satellite-based tracking system that monitors signals emitted by vessels all over the world.
The idea behind the system is that the data is organized and made available to defined licensees. The IMO debate has centered on the design of the system's architecture, as well as defining the various groups of licensees and their needs and rights to have access to information.
There are three categories of licensees: Flag state, Port state and Coastal state. The flag state is the country in which the vessel is registered. The port state is the country whose harbors the ship enters. Coastal states are those countries passed by the vessels on their voyages. The most important thing for Norway has been to secure the rights of coastal states.
This debate has proven to be very difficult. Different countries have different policies as regards tracking vessels off their own coasts. Relations between neighboring countries is another issue in this respect. The permitted tracking distance from a country's own coast has been a key issue in the discussion of coastal states' rights. Large tracking sectors could also cover neighboring countries, and not all countries want this.
Norway needs the ability to track vessels for a minimum of 400 nautical miles (nm) from the coast. Our special infrastructure creates this need. The oil and gas facilities offshore are located as far as 150 nm from land. The LRIT system can assist the authorities in obtaining a good overview of which vessels are approaching the facilities at any given time. This is important from a security point of view.
We can envisage additional applications for the LRIT system in the future, such as solving environmental crime, controlling overfishing, etc.
The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has participated in the Norwegian delegation in IMO, and has closely followed the work to design the LRIT system. The Norwegian delegation had the opportunity to give a presentation in IMO in the previous session, and used this opportunity to focus on Norway's needs as a coastal state.
Photo: The PSA's Øystein Bruncell Larsen gave a presentation on behalf of the Norwegian delegation.
We emphasized that our challenges do not lie along our coastline, but more than 100 nm out in the sea. An important element in ensuring majority approval of our viewpoint was to demonstrate to the delegations that Norway is not unique in this respect, and that there are many other countries with the same infrastructure challenges that must start to think differently when defining their need for maritime safety.
IMO will make a decision on the LRIT system design in May 2006.
Contact in the PSA:
Øystein Bruncell Larsen