Friday, October 18, 2013

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U.K. and Russia team up on GPS backup for Arctic shipping

The U.K. and Russia are working to synchronize their advanced GPS navigation technologies to enhance safety on the dangerous Arctic shipping trade routes.

Shipping traffic through the newly accessible Northern Sea Route is four times greater than last year, says the Northern Sea Route Administration, since melting polar ice caps have opened the route that shortens shipping time between Europe and Asia by a third.

The Arctic route also circumvents the territorial conflict and danger from pirates that plague routes around Asia and Africa, but increased traffic is triggering safety concerns. Risks include perennial ice cover, random weather changes, and the reduced availability of GPS satellite navigation.

The General Lighthouse Authorities of the U.K. and Ireland say they are working with Russia's Internavigation Research and Technical Centre to develop interoperable and resilient position, navigational and timing technologies such as the eLoran system the GLAs are rolling out across the U.K.

"These new routes are undoubtedly an exciting prospect, and offer great advantage in terms of reduced fuel usage and consequent benefits for the environment," said Adrian Mundin, nautical manager for Safety and Environment at the U.K. Chamber of Shipping.

"There are issues of safety still to be addressed, for example the ability to conduct search and rescue in such remote regions and the quality of hydrographic survey," Mundin added. "We look forward to hearing the outcome of this activity and would support any development that is set to improve navigational safety."

For more of the Engineering and Technology Magazine story:

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