UK and Russia to cooperate on GPS back up

11 October 2013
By Edd Gent
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New shipping routes in the high Arctic have prompted cooperation between the UK and Russia on advanced navigation systems

New shipping routes in the high Arctic have prompted cooperation between the UK and Russia on advanced navigation systems

The UK and Russia will work to harmonise their advanced navigation technologies to improve safety on hazardous new high Arctic routes.

Shipping traffic through the Northern Sea Route alone has quadrupled in the last year, according to the Northern Sea Route Administration, as melting polar ice opens new arctic shipping routes that cut shipping times between Asia and Europe by around a third.

The new routes also avoid issues with territorial disagreements and pirate threats sometimes encountered on routes around Asia and Africa, but the increase in shipping traffic is adding to safety risks in the Arctic region, along with hazards such as perennial ice cover, unpredictable weather, and reduced availability of GPS satellite navigation data that ships rely on.

As a result, the General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Ireland (GLAs) has announced today that they are working with the Internavigation Research and Technical Centre in Russia to develop interoperable and resilient position, navigational and timing (PNT) technologies such as the eLoran system the GLAs are rolling out across the UK.

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

“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. We look forward to hearing the outcome of this activity and would support any development that is set to improve navigational safety.”

The GLA’s eLoran technology is a pulse-phase long-wave range radionavigation system and works independently of satellite navigation technology, which is vulnerable to both deliberate and accidental jamming.

Russia has its own version of the technology called eChayka and the new partnership will see both countries work together on furthering the development and standardisation of two systems.

Martin Bransby, Research and Radionavigation manager at the GLAs, said: “Resilient PNT is increasingly accepted as requisite to shipping safety around the world.

“The GLAs are recognised as technical leaders in this field, and it’s of paramount importance that we collaborate with other leading nations to encourage worldwide excellence in shipping navigation safety and efficiency.”

Dr Victor Tsarev, director general of the Internavigation Research and Technology Centre said: “There are many technical areas of mutual interest for the development of eLoran in the UK and Ireland and eChayka in Russia for which a future exchange of information and technical cooperation will be beneficial for both parties.”

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