Radio communication is critical during mooring line hook-up and ship handling operations to prevent injuries and fatalities
This was highlighted by UK P&I Club senior loss prevention executive Captain David Nichol as he reviewed two recent marine accidents during towage hook-up operations, as summarised in a recent Lessons Learnt bulletin.
In one incident a seafarer at the aft mooring station of a large bulk carrier sustained a serious injury while connecting a tow wire, when a messenger line parted from the tug’s tow line and snapped back violently, striking the seaman on the head.
In another incident, a seafarer on a Capesize bulk carrier was killed after being struck on the neck by a messenger line jumping off the warping drum.
Both accidents were attributed to poor seamanship, a lack of teamwork and communications. Capt Nichol thinks better communications would mitigate risk, especially as mooring decks of large bulk carriers, tankers and container ships could be unsighted to the tug master and bridge team. This “requires mooring crew to perform as a well-drilled team in circumstances where voice communications and line of sight may be inhibited” says Mr Nichol.
“It is essential for tug masters to communicate effectively with the pilot and ship captain via VHF radio,” he tells Maritime Digitalisation & Communications.
“All communications should be short and precise to avoid confusion and include the name of the calling vessel or tug and the station being called,” says Capt Nichol. “Standard maritime communication phrases should be used as appropriate.
“Vessel mooring teams and tug masters are heavily reliant on the captain or pilot issuing clear, unambiguous information and instructions and should correspondingly inform the vessel bridge team of all relevant actions and crucially, where they have any concerns relating to safety,” Capt Nichol says.
When multiple tugboats are involved, good communications over VHF between tug masters is important for safety and efficient operations.
“Teamwork is key,” says Capt Nichol. “From the outset, a comprehensive exchange of information must be carried out including a full appreciation of how the operation is to be performed as well as the characteristics, capabilities and limitations of the vessel and tugs involved.”
With this type of communication in mind, Icom introduced a buoyant handheld marine VHF radio in September. The IC-M37E comes with 6 W of output power for extended communications range. Its 700-MW audio output provides clear communication even in noisy environments, Icom UK marketing manager Ian Lockyer explains to MDC during a visit to its offices in Herne Bay, Kent.
IC-M37E is built to IP57 dust and waterproof protection rating to a depth of 1 m for 30 minutes. “It is buoyant and will float on its back if accidently dropped,” says Mr Lockyer.
“It has AquaQuake water-draining function,” he says. “It will vibrate to disperse water from the grill, to prevent it being clogged up.”
IC-M37E has a large keypad and liquid crystal display for channel numbers and status icons.
It has a channel history function, storing the last five channels used for easy recall.
If a radio hub is required, then Icom’s new VE-PG4 radio over IP (RoIP) gateway could be used. This links various radio systems and protocols with LTE [4G] and IP networks, enabling users to interconnect various communications systems.
This functions as a bridge for radio network audio to an IP protocol, for voice over IP, and interconnects devices on the network. It can integrate digital and analogue devices through the RoIP, session initiation protocol (SIP) gateway, IP router and IP private branch exchange (PBX) features.
VE-PG4 can be used as a controller for an IP advanced radio system, controlling up to 50 handsets and a remote communicator.
For satellite-based voice communications, Icom introduced the IC-SAT100 handheld radio this year. This links to the Iridium satellite communication network of 66 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. IC-SAT100 has voice delay of around 500 milliseconds and press-to-talk functions.
Icom also has a range of VHF mounted marine radios that all have digital selective calling (DSC) and internal GPS receivers following a change in regulations in November 2018.
The new specification from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU-RM493-14) means all DSC marine radios must have a GPS receiver and an externally-mounted antenna. Icom’s latest version is the IC-M330GE VHF/DSC marine radio.
GMDSS-ready radio and terminals
Icom also has marine VHF and MF/HF radios that comply with IMO’s requirements for the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
Rival supplier Cobham Satcom is working with Iridium to develop GMDSS equipment. It has provided radio and satellite terminals for safety communications since the 1960s and for GMDSS when these regulations came into force in 1992. Cobham’s latest VHF marine radio with GMDSS is the Sailor 6222. This is part of the Sailor 6000 range that also includes MF/HF radio.
Cobham’s latest developments are GMDSS-ready terminals for Iridium’s Certus L-band service. Cobham manager for business development Peter Andersen says GMDSS will be an add-on feature of Iridium Certus terminals, including the Sailor 4300. This comes with three voice lines and an application programming interface.
Sailor 4300 can deliver IP data speeds up to 176/352 kbps. Iridium is planning a firmware upgrade and its partners are developing faster terminals to increase throughput to 704 kbps.
“More Certus terminals will come in 2020 with different speeds and certified for GMDSS,” says Mr Andersen.
Cobham is also working with Inmarsat for its safety communications products. One of the existing GMDSS terminals, Sailor 6110 operates over Inmarsat C. The next generation will be integrated into FleetBroadband, which “can work as GMDSS with safety interfaces added” says Mr Andersen.
He adds Cobham continues to improve its portfolio of safety communications including VHF radios. “GMDSS is being modernised and we are actively trying to influence this and make terminals more reliable and user-friendly,” he says. “We have improved the interfaces and ensure our products are fit-for-purpose for safety communications.”
Standard Horizon introduced its HX890 DSC handheld VHF with GPS this year. This has 6 W of transmit power output, 700 MW audio, a 32 code FVP-42 scrambler system for secure communications and a FM broadcast band receiver.
Standard Horizon has also introduced the Explorer series of fixed-mount VHF radio. Its GX1850G has 25 W of power, a built-in GPS receiver, automatic DSC polling of up to six ships and 10 preset channels.
Icom’s VE-PG4 RoIP gateway features