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November 6, 2016

Fraunhofer to study safe navigation of vessels through the Northwest Passage sea route

A German-Canadian research team is planning to conduct preparatory work for safe navigation of vessels through the icy waters of the Northwest Passage.

A German-Canadian research team is planning to conduct preparatory work for safe navigation of vessels through the icy waters of the Northwest Passage.

Co-initiated by Fraunhofer Institute of Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics (FKIE) in Germany, the Protection and Advanced Surveillance System for the Artic: Green, Efficient, Secure (PASSAGES) project seeks to make the Northwest Passage navigable in future.

Connecting the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Ocean, the Northwest Pasage is slowly becoming navigable due to melting of the polar ice caps. However, the route is currently considered to be ‘too dangerous’ and risky.

"Compared to the route between East Asia and Europe via the Suez Canal, the route via the Northwest Passage is about 5,000nm shorter."

Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE Sensor Data and Information Fusion head Dr. Wolfgang Koch said: “For a country dependent on exports, such as Germany, shorter sea routes are of great importance.

“Compared to the route between East Asia and Europe via the Suez Canal, the route via the Northwest Passage is about 5,000nm shorter, which means enormous savings for ship owners.”

Fraunhofer noted that currently little data is available on the Northwest Passage due to lack of infrastructure in sensor and communication technology on the entire route.

PASSAGES will aim to collect data sources available in the harsh climate zone of Northwest Passage using various technologies such as an automatic identification system (AIS), passive radar technology and others.

Depending upon the new data, an appropriate monitoring and information system is expected to be developed in the near future, however it will take nearly a decade to develop a navigation system for the Northwest Passage.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi); as well as Airbus; exact Earth; and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada are also involved in PASSAGES.


Image: Currently, ships operating in Northwest Passage have to undergo dangerous risks. Photo: courtesy of Lee Carson, NORSTRAT Consulting, Canada.

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