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Port of Cork to Test RFID Solution to Track Dredging Operations

Using a GPS and RFID solution from Succorfish, IT services company SEA-Tech will help the Irish port monitor when and where a plow is lowered to the seafloor.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 29, 2013

Ireland's Port of Cork is about to begin a trial of a vessel-tracking system that includes radio frequency identification technology, in order to obtain an electronic record of which areas of its seafloor are being dredged, and when. This will ensure that the port continues to upgrade the portage waters at the proper time and place. The RFID technology is part of a larger solution that employs GPS, cellular and satellite technologies to identify and report a vessel's location. With RFID, the system will indicate not only where the boat is located, but also when it has lowered or raised its plow into the water in order to scrape and level the seabed.

The trial of the solution—known as SC2 VMS, consisting of software and hardware supplied by British technology firm Succorfish—is being overseen by SEA-Tech, an Irish company that provides IT services and equipment to the Port of Cork.

The MV Denis Murphy
The Port of Cork—reputed to be one of the world's largest ports, geographically—services the south of Ireland. To keep its waters clear of obstructions created by silt that could impede the passage of large vessels, it is necessary to regularly clear the seafloor of sediment. The port sends its MV Denis Murphy utility vessel into the harbor daily to conduct a variety of maintenance services, including inspecting buoys and plowing the seafloor.

Seafloor plowing—an alternative to standard dredging—consists of lowering a large, multi-ton iron implement into the water and dragging it along the sea floor, explains Arnaud Disant, SEA-Tech's founder. This loosens silt, he says, which is then washed away by the outgoing tide, thereby ensuring the necessary clearance for vessels.

Identifying the specific locations where the actual plowing is performed, as well as when this occurs, can be difficult. Sometimes, only the vessel's skipper knows exactly where plowing has taken place. Without an automated system to manage the boat's location, details regarding the vessel's real-time location, as well as what work has been done on a particular day, are known only to vessel crews. While the Denis Murphy's GPS data is stored on its ship plotter (an instrument used to plot straight lines and angles on a chart, thus indicting a vessel's location) with the longitude and latitude path overlaid on the charts, this information is stored only on the vessel. What's more, the GPS system has no way of knowing where the plow has been lowered into or raised from the water.

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