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Insight: LRIT + Ships At Sea
by Iridium
Insight graphic

The international shipping community is moving to implement a mandatory program that will enable national authorities to identify and track the location of ships at sea using satellite tracking devices placed on the ships.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) last year adopted regulations requiring all ships subject to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to be equipped with a satellite Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) device. The LRIT unit will automatically report the ship’s identity and position to a database operated by the administration under which the vessel is flagged. This database may be viewed or queried by authorized LRIT data users, such as flag administrations, port authorities and national coast guards, at regular intervals.

ship photo The IMO’s LRIT requirements apply to the following types of ships engaged on international voyages: passenger ships (including high-speed passenger craft) and cargo ships (including high-speed craft) of 300 gross tonnage and above, and mobile offshore drilling units.< br />
Iridium Satellite LLC (Iridium), with its global satellite coverage over all of the Earth’s seaways, low-latency, two-way short-burst data (SBD) links and robust network quality, provides an ideal communication medium for LRIT reporting. Importantly, Iridium is the only maritime satellite system that provides coverage over the entire globe, including IMO Sea Area A4, comprising those areas not covered by Inmarsat or national coastal systems. This includes Polar Regions above 70 degrees north or south latitude. In other words, ships operating in Sea Area A4 can only meet the carriage requirement with an Iridium LRIT device.

LRIT Reporting
The shipborne equipment should be set to transmit the ship’s LRIT information automatically at six-hour intervals to the LRIT data center identified by the flag administration, unless the LRIT data user (e.g., national maritime surveillance authority) requesting the LRIT information specifies a more frequent transmission interval. When a ship is undergoing repairs in dry-dock or in port, or is laid up for a long period, the flag administration or Application Service Provider (ASP) may reduce the frequency of the transmission of LRIT information to one report every 24-hour period, or may temporarily stop the transmission of such information. The performance standard places severe restrictions on the ability of the ship’s master to disable or alter the LRIT reporting intervals.

Ship LRIT Equipment
The IMO performance standards specify that the shipboard equipment must:
  • Be capable of automatically — and without human intervention — transmitting the ship’s LRIT information at six-hour intervals to an LRIT data center
  • Be capable of being configured remotely to transmit LRIT information at variable intervals
  • Be capable of transmitting LRIT information following receipt of polling commands interface directly to the shipborne global navigation satellite system equipment, or have internal positioning capability
  • Be supplied with energy from the main and emergency source of electrical power
  • Be tested for electromagnetic compatibility per IMO recommendations

The following requirements must also be completed for all LRIT devices intended to operate on the Iridium satellite network:
  • The LRIT device must be tested and certified by Iridium for interoperability via the Iridium satellite network
  • It must be type-approved by the ship’s flag administration
  • It must be tested by an ASP authorized by the ship’s flag administration to conduct LRIT conformance testing

Iridium Value Proposition
Iridium SBD service offers a unique value proposition for ships to help them comply with the LRIT requirements by providing a dedicated, high-performance terminal and secure communication service that meets or exceeds all IMO communication service provider requirements. The Iridium SBD service offers low uniform latency, is highly reliable and ensures commercially confidential transmission mechanism for LRIT transmissions. Plus, the service supplies flexible options with its global network of ASPs and Value-Added Manufacturers that offer a range of customizable and cost-effective dedicated Iridium LRIT services. There’s unparalleled reach and unrivaled coverage with Iridium’s constellation of 66 cross-linked satellites in low-earth orbit — every location on the face of the Earth is covered by one or more satellites. There’s ull interoperability with all ASPs — an important consideration when ships move from one flag to another.

In recent months, Iridium has signed agreements with four leading ASPs — Absolute Software, Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS), Fulcrum, and Kemilinks. Together, these companies provide LRIT services to the ships flying the flags of the major maritime states. Iridium has also tested and certified LRIT devices from several VAMs to transmit data across the Iridium network. These products include CLS Thorium, EMA BlueTraker® and Faria WatchDog®.

LRIT system architecture diagram