Vesper Marine has provided its virtual Automatic Identification System (AIS) to New York Power Authority (NYPA) to protect submerged power cables in Long Island Sound.
The WatchMate Asset Protection System is the first US installation of a system combining virtual AIS technology to mark subsea cables in conjunction with highly integrated and advanced software for monitoring vessel traffic patterns which directly alerts vessels to avoid anchor damage to inshore submarine infrastructure assets.
The NYPA is the largest state electric utility in the US. The first set of cables to be monitored and protected is comprised of four independent, self-contained fluid filled cables buried in the seabed crossing Long Island Sound. Despite being buried, anchor strikes occurred in 2002 and 2014. In both incidents the damage resulted in fluid loss, difficult working conditions and significant economic costs.
The repair spanned several months and involved crews working around the clock under severe weather conditions and cost millions of dollars. To detect and avoid further incidents.
“Prevention is the driving force at Vesper Marine,” said Jeff Robbins, CEO, Vesper Marine. “Incidents like the New York Power Authority’s previous anchor strikes caused a huge impact to the region in terms of financial costs, danger to work crews undertaking the arduous repair and interruption of power service, as well as the potential environmental impact of spilled cable oil. We are proud to help by providing a system to mark the cables, monitor local traffic, alert the NYPA of potential issues and notify vessels to prevent accidents before they occur.”
The WatchMate Asset Protection system consists of Vesper Marine’s Virtual AIS Beacons installed at NYPA shore stations, which are used to create Virtual Aids to Navigation (ATON). A Virtual ATON is a special signal transmitted from one location to mark another remote point. The signals are received by existing AIS units installed on all commercial, as well as a growing number of recreational, vessels in the area. Marks are displayed identifying the location of the cables on the receiving boats’ AIS displays, which, in addition to notes on marine charts, further alert vessels to the presence of the cables.
The shore stations also receive real-time AIS transmissions from each vessel in the area and provide a secure network link to the remotely-located, cloud-based smart monitoring system, which continuously examines each vessel’s behaviour to determine if an anchoring hazard, exists. If a vessel is determined to be anchoring within the cable area, an alert is automatically raised to the NYPA and a special AIS textual warning message is transmitted directly to the vessel alerting them of the situation. The ability to pro-actively notify vessels via a message sent to their navigation system provides additional protection against accidental anchor damage. This unique feedback loop is the first of its kind and will reduce the potential for serious damage.
“Vesper Marine technology was selected due to its unique ability to achieve all four objectives of making the cables more visible though our fully redundant and reliable AIS hardware, ensuring the security of data collected for real-time analysis, unique software continuously looking for potential anchoring situations, and pro-active notification to both NYPA personnel and directly to the vessel,” continued Robbins. “Our ‘rules-based’ software reacts to many more parameters than just a vessel moving slowly over a period of time. This system alleviates the requirement of 24/7 response teams, as well as any inherent notification delays to the vessel, for a more efficient and effective solution.”
“With our new system, we can track vessels in the area of the cable and provide an enhanced level of protection to eliminate anchor strikes and the resulting environmental impact,” said Robert J. Schwabe, director of asset and maintenance management, New York Power Authority.