eLoran stations to be rolled out across UK

17 July 2013
By Edd Gent
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A GPS navigation system display showing that GPS has been jammed

A GPS navigation system display showing that GPS has been jammed

A prototype eLoran receiver

A prototype eLoran receiver

THV Galatea, the ship used in the successful eLoran trials earlier this year

THV Galatea, the ship used in the successful eLoran trials earlier this year

A navigation system resilient to GPS jamming will be installed along the south and east coast of the UK, it was announced today.

Following approval by the Department for Transport, seven differential eLoran stations will be installed to provide alternative position, navigation and timing (PNT) information to ensure that ships equipped with eLoran receivers can navigate safely in the event of GPS failure in one of the busiest shipping regions in the world.

The GPS signals most ships rely on are vulnerable to both deliberate and accidental jamming, which is causing increasing concern because of the wide availability of GPS jammers online for as little as £30 that are capable of causing complete outages across all receivers currently on the market.

The rollout, led by the General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) of the UK and Ireland, is the first in the world to deploy this technology for shipping companies operating both passenger and cargo services.

Martin Bransby, research and radionavigation manager at the GLAs, said: “Demands on marine navigation continue to increase and awareness of the vulnerability of GPS is growing, yet electronic systems at sea have not evolved at a sufficient pace to meet these challenges. Today’s announcement is a significant step towards improving safety at sea, but few vessels currently have receivers to take advantage of the new stations. We hope that the maritime industry will respond proactively to the new stations rollout by installing eLoran receivers on more vessels.”

The eLoran technology is based on longwave radio signals and works independently of GPS. The GLAs carried out the world’s first successful demonstration of a prototype automatic resilient PNT system using eLoran in trials on-board the THV Galatea earlier this year.

GPS plays a fundamental role in delivering the PNT data that ships rely on to ensure safe navigation today, but many other devices and applications, such as telecommunications, smart grids and high-frequency trading, rely on GPS-based information making the development of jamming-resistant alternatives a high priority.

Several nations have approached the GLAs to learn more about its experience of eLoran and other resilient PNT technologies.

South Korea has expressed that it wants to establish an eLoran alliance with the UK while it pursues its own rollout of differential eLoran stations, due for completion in 2015 after it became the victim of a 16-day GPS jamming attack by North Korea last year.

Stephen Hammond, Minister for Shipping, said: “The deployment of seven eLoran stations follows the successful demonstration of eLoran as a resilient PNT technology and puts the UK at the forefront of developments to improve navigational safety.

“I applaud the GLAs on this initiative and am keen to see how it benefits mariners when in use up and down the country.”

The rollout, led by contractor UrsaNav, will replace equipment in two prototype stations at Dover and Harwich, and five new stations will be deployed in the Medway, Humber, Middlesbrough, Firth of Forth, and Aberdeen.

Full operational capability covering all major ports is expected by 2019.

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