Current products: LOC8

LOC8 is a service which collects instrument data onboard vessels and makes it available through a variety of channels. Internally known as SeaLog, the system is marketed as LOC8 by MarineMTS Ltd under exclusive license.

On board ship

The software runs either on the computer running the ship's ECDIS, or on a dedicated small computer. The ECDIS currently supported is Microplot by MarineMTS. Any operating system, back to Windows XP, is supported. Running on its own computer, the hardware supplied is a ruggedised, fanless, miniature computer with solid state disk known as Silver Box. This configuration is specially chosen to withstand years of operation in the less-than-ideal environment of a ship's bridge.

This software agent collects data from any of the ship's instruments, such as GPS, AIS and ARPA (radar) which produce NMEA output; or serial data from any other type of device such as engine management systems, dredging equipment etc. When run on Silver Box, the software reads directly from serial ports (the Silver Box has four RS-232 and four USB serial ports), or when co-located on the ECDIS machine, it reads the data via the TCP/IP stack. The system does not need intervention from crew to operate: it does not need a screen or keyboard to be attached, and restarts automatically after a power outage. So no additional training is required.

The software agent is configured to send data to shore via the ship's satcomms in regular batches. However, if AIS SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) messages are detected, the software enters an emergency mode and transmits selected data immediately, to provide critically important information to land-based authorities such as the coastguard.

In the cloud

Data from worldwide is received by cloud-based servers and managed in a leading-edge NoSQL database. The information is immediately available for registered users to view anywhere via an ordinary web browser (no plug-ins required; all major browsers supported). The web display uses SpiffyMap's SpiffyChart technology to display the information on S-52 charts, exactly as it would appear on an ECDIS system, to allow experienced mariners to be able to interpret it easily. Each customer can provision any number of web-based users (licensing is per-seat) and is only able to see information collected from vessels in their own fleet, except when emergency (SOLAS) signals are being picked up in the area, in which case all available vessel location information is made temporarily available.

As well as presenting the information on a chart, the information is also available in various forms for use by client organisations. These formats currently include SOAP (XML) and REST (JSON) web services and GIS shapefiles by email. These deliver the information in a summarised format for easy processing, but the original NMEA source data can also be made available for analysis after a major event.

History

The system was developed in response to the Elgin oil rig disaster in 2011, when UK authorities required that land-based supervision of the rescue operation should be available. LOC8 was installed on the vessels of the operator (Total) which were already running Microplot Mariner for navigation. The system was then developed into a commercial service, with Total UK as the first customer.

Applications

The system makes not only the ship's position available to shore-based personnel, but also the positions of surrounding vessels as picked up by the vessel's AIS and ARPA equipment, so the shore user can access exactly the same information as the ship's ECDIS operator, in the same way. However, the shore user can also access the view from other vessels, or an aggregate view of the picture across the whole fleet.

This system lends itself to many applications, including, but not limited to:

Future development

We have trialled a facility whereby the Silver Box acts as a firewall for the ship's ECDIS, and provides virus scanning services to ensure the integrity of the ECDIS. We are now preparing this as a product add-on.

We are currently developing an iPad app which will display the information being collected on an S-52 chart, for use within the vessel (using wifi). This will allow crew not on the bridge to consult the current position and status.

We plan to add route information to the data handled by the system, so that route plans can be sent from ship to shore and potentially vice-versa. Using the iPad as input device, or a conventional screen and keyboard, it will be possible to plan routes on the Silver Box and download the relevant charts to be passed to the ECDIS.