Information published on 12 December 2017 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 576 .

Finland: Hundreds of aids to navigation disappear every year – position-indicating spar buoys could be the solution

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The Finnish Transport Agency will test position-indicating spar buoys on Pyhäranta small craft track. The aim of this new type of spar buoy is to improve maritime safety and reduce the need for position inspections.

Winter is a nightmare when it comes to floating aids to navigation. There are about 17,000 floating spar buoys in the Finnish Transport Agency’s channels, and every year over 700 of these get damaged or moved out of position by the ice. Spar buoys also disappear during other seasons, although to a lesser extent.

“The Finnish Transport Agency’s contractors always check the positions of spar buoys and other navigation marks after the winter season. These inspections are laborious, but necessary, since each spar buoy that is missing or off position poses a risk of grounding”, says Fairway Inspector Joonatan Ahlroos at the Finnish Transport Agency.

In addition to inspectors, boaters and mariners also report deficiencies in the channels. Despite the inspections and boaters’ reports, spar buoys may be missing for a long time before the maintenance contractors obtain this information. The new position-indicating spar buoys could offer a solution to this problem.

Test area on Pyhäranta small craft track
The Finnish Transport Agency has chosen Pyhäranta small craft track in the vicinity of Rauma as the test area. The aim is to improve channel safety and test the durability of the new spar buoys. At the same time, the agency wants to find the means to reduce the need for position inspections. The installations are being carried out by Meritaito Oy, the maintenance contractor in the area.
“All of the 33 floating unlit aids to navigation in the small craft track will be replaced. The spar buoys will be integrated in Meritaito’s system, SeaDatics, via which the position data of the aids to navigation are transmitted to the Finnish Transport Agency. The installations begin on Tuesday, 28 November 2017. Weather conditions permitting, the new spar buoys will be installed on the small craft track already this week”, says Kalle Rantala, Works Manager at Meritaito Oy.

Finnish innovation improves maritime safety
Finnish technology is used in the new aids to navigation established on Pyhäranta small craft track. The installed spar buoys have been manufactured by Meritaito Oy, and they are equipped with the Taival location-tracking service developed by Emergence Oy.

“The spar buoys are equipped with an energy-efficient tracking device using the mobile phone network. The devices are powered by their own battery and a small solar panel, and they last 10 years without charging or maintenance”, says Jorri Arrakoski at Emergence.

A similar location-tracking service has previously been used with floating aids to navigation installed off Jätkäsaari in Helsinki. The experiences have been positive. Now it is a question of trial, but the possible benefits of more comprehensive positioning have been discussed.

“Our main goal is to improve safety at sea. If we can obtain more real-time data on the positions of floating aids to navigation, we can provide more real-time information to boaters. This way boaters get information about missing navigation marks and can take this information into account”, says Ahlroos.

Positioning data can also be utilised for fairway maintenance. If all floating aids to navigation in Finland were able to send information about their whereabouts, we would no longer have to carry out position inspections. This would save both money and the environment.

(Source: FTA)