Meeting the Queen of Tír na nÓg

As the Irish Naval Service patrol vessel P52 L.É. NIAMH returned from her recent sea patrol, for SEA-Tech it represented the end of a six months tour of duty for our S360 ship-station on board. After six hours spent in Rochespoint lighthouse preparing the coastal station for our final test, the SEA-Tech team had a rendez vous with the Irish queen of Tír na nÓg (the land of the young) at a range of approximately 20 kilometres offshore.


SeaFi Sentinel2015 03 27 at 08.59.10

SeaFi Sentinel (above) is a visual aid to navigation used by Cork harbour operation (Port of Cork)

“Rendez vous point Provence” was a test imagined conjointly with Naval Service personnel aboard L.É. NIAMH under the IMERC partnership. The purpose of this test was to demonstrate that it is possible to send and retrieve data from a ship at sea without using satellite communication or 3G/4G at 20 kilometres from the nearest coast. This benchmark also proposed to measure the quality of the signal received and the amount of data that can be transferred ship to shore and shore to ship, in megabytes per second.
On a cloudy and damp morning, with intermittent, passing rain showers, L.É. NIAMH and Rochespoint lighthouse connected automatically. The pre-planned test was conducted under the control of a naval officer on the bridge of NIAMH and a SEA-Tech Engineer at the shore-station. The successful automatic connection proved that a lighthouse, once used to guide ships into port, can be reconditioned to serve as an operational marine telecommunication relay point. From once beaming light to today beaming data, there are only few modifications to be made to retrofit a SeaFi Horizon system to every lighthouse around our wild and lonely coast.

With ECDIS systems, lighthouses have lost some of their traditional purpose. When using GPS and DGPS nowadays, ships don't need light or flashes to find their way, however they badly need data communication to exchange information, internet for crew and passengers, access to local weather stations and visual aid for security... Often called eNavigation this is what we do at SEA-Tech. Our customers are port authorities, the energy sector, Governments, shipping companies, etc...
During our test, the SeaFi Horizon communication link indicated 13Mbps at 11.5NM (over 20 km) the quality of the signal was very good and steady enough to browse a web page without discomfort. Access to information from ashore was therefore available if needed to personnel on board L.É. NIAMH (such as video feed shown above) or weather information, such as wind direction and speed to plan entrance into Cork harbour. Ships like L.É. NIAMH can travel at 42.6 km/h (23.0 kn) maximum but wireless data travels at approximately the speed of light, so by the time NIAMH was in Haulbowline, administration data, orders, reports or images/videos could have been sent ashore and received in a timely manner, long before the ship was safely tied alongside.

In the commercial world, this timely transfer of cost-effective data could potentially save companies considerable time, money and effort. Integrating SEA-Tech solutions with existing services such as “Medico” medical services, critical medical information and real-time video streaming could be transferred from ship to shore, saving critical time for an injured crew member in the event of accidents onboard. This successful test, proving the concept and practical application, was possible by utilising SeaFi Horizon, a 1817 built lighthouse and a lot of good will from all those in Ireland who understood we are a smart maritime nation...

Written by : Arnaud Disant