Innovative Radio System at Port of Liverpool

29th January 2012

Radio communication specialist, North West Radio has devised an intelligent radio system to assist in the management of vessel traffic in the busy port of Liverpool. Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) are responsible for managing a huge area of sea from the North of Wales coast to the Isle of Man. The new radio system allows VTS at the port to provide a range of services from the provision of simple information messages to ships, to extensive management of traffic within the port or waterway.

The Port of Liverpool is one of the busiest ports in the UK. It is a gateway to trade from North America and more than 100 other non-EU destinations. In addition the Port of Liverpool sees nearly three quarters of a million people travelling on Irish Sea ferry services and cruise ships.

The new radio system, installed in 2008 is equipped with 5 radio consoles with touch screen monitors together with Icom repeaters to boost the radio coverage. The system spreads its web across five locations, Locks in Gladstone and Lankton (which are controlled remotely from the central base), the Grain Silo at the port, Linus on the North Welsh coast and even the Manchester Ship Canal, which covers 37 miles inland. Installation of the system was spread over the 5 sites over a 7-day period running side by side with the older system. Switch over was in a quiet period and went straightforwardly.

Paul Clay, Head of Operations at the Port of Liverpool said, ‘The system allows us to speak with incoming vessels over a wide area and record the communications. The system has to be incredibly fine-tuned because of all the differing standards of radio equipment onboard international vessels. We find that an UK flagged vessel will usually have superior equipment than that of a foreign owned.’

He added, ’the system allows us to co-ordinate our Pilot’s to navigate large vessels around the North West Coast. A difficult task enough without having to navigate the various shipping hazards including 25 wind turbines.’

The new system is centrally controlled by VTS from the control room. Five radio consoles with touch screen monitors enable the operators to monitor traffic. VTS can also monitor traffic visually from the numerous CCTV cameras set up around the port. The system has coverage in the following areas:


Grain Silo – 1 UHF IC-FR4100 Repeater, 3 VHF IC-FR3100 Repeaters


Gladstone Lock – 1 UHF IC-FR4100 and 1 VHF IC-FR3100 Repeater


Lankton Lock – 1 UHF IC-FR4100 and 1 VHF IC-FR3100 Repeater


Manchester Ship Canal – 2 VHF IC-FR3100 Repeaters


Linus – 1 VHF Master IC-FR3100 Repeater and 1 Slave IC-FR3100 Repeater


 

Grain Silo
The Grain Silo is situated in the middle of the Port. Three IC-FR3100 VHF repeaters are housed near the top of the silo, which are programmed with marine VHF channels. The height of the Silo provides the system with excellent coverage.

Gladstone and Lankton Locks

There are two unmanned Lock’s. The Gladstone and the Lankton Locks both have an ICFR3100 on fixed marine channels for vessels coming into the Locks. A IC-FR4100 is used at each location for the onsite engineers. Each Lock has 2 base stations with touch screen monitors similar to the control room, which can be used to control the whole radio system if there was a major emergency.

Port Linus in North Wales

Paul Benson of North West Radio said, ‘One of the main challenges of setting up this radio system was to get Linus, the furthest most point on the coast on the system. There is no network connection in this area so we engineered a solution that brings back radio transmissions by microwave links and fibre optics. We installed two IC-F3100 VHF repeaters with multiple channels at Linus. The repeater is set up in a master standby configuration so if one fails then we can switch to a reserve base station.

So what have been the benefits of the system? Paul Clay, Head of Operations at the Port of Liverpool said, ‘ our new radio system is reliable and, above all, very user friendly. The system allows us to record all voice traffic and provides us with the flexibility to relocate operations to other sites on the system. This means we could feasibly run VTS from one of the Locks from a radio terminal if required.’

He added, ‘Our mandate is very simple. Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) contribute to safety of life at sea, safety and efficiency of navigation and protection of the marine environment. Without the comms, we cannot do the job. The port is busier than ever and with a brand new landing stage being launched soon, there will be more cruise lines coming into the Port, which will mean extra work for our team and the new radio system.’ Paul Benson said,”.

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