Enhancing safe navigation in Arctic waters

September 7th, 2015

AECO work with a crowdsourcing of data project, that gather and share years of depth soundings from operators with the intention to collaborate and provide better reference data for all.

Safe sailing in operations are always priority number one for members of AECO. As other operators in the Arctic AECO recognizes that the available charts are not always as detailed in the Arctic as they are in other parts of the world. As a result AECO is taking part in ongoing efforts to utilize a hydrographic crowdsourcing system, that collects historical and future data from soundings in order to easily and pragmatically share these among operators, hydrographic offices and relevant authorities.

Official charts are the primary aid of navigation

After several years of assessments and taking part in different crowdsourcing trials, the working-group behind the crowdsourcing project came up with a solution in regard to the sharing of historical seafloor depth information. Existing crowdsourcing systems make sharing of depth soundings possible from the day you install the system. The challenge has been to find a way to share years of continuous, historical, hydrographic data accumulated by vessels the past decade. It was crucial that this project found a way to exploit these valuable data. In some areas of the Arctic, official sea-charts are limited and these historical crowdsourcing files are considered extremely valuable add-ons to the official hydrographic charts.  Even if crowdsourcing measures are an important focus for AECO official charts and publications are always AECO-operators primary aid of navigation in any waters.

An ambitious crowdsourcing of data project

At this point in time eight AECO-vessels use a shared crowdsourcing platform to share historical depth sounding data. The amount of available data compiled by the crowdsourcing project is already substantial and include hundreds of mud maps. The amount of shared data will increase in the time to come, since current vessels constantly contribute with more soundings. The pace of data collection will increase even further as more vessels install the system. The eight current vessels that uses crowdsourcing are: MV Expedition, Fram, Ortelius, Plancius, Silver Explorer, National Geographic Explorer, National Geographic Orion and Seaborne Quest. Besides sharing the information between operators, a primary goal of the project has been to get hydrographic-office data into the system – a process that is still ongoing. High-resolution test-charts has been tested and it turns out that they work very well with the crowdsourcing-system. Even though this data is not to be used for navigation, this crowdsourced data has a great potential for enhancing safe navigation in Arctic waters. In regard to this it is however important to note that the system by no means is used by operators as replacement of the official and approved means of navigation.