Operational Support of Ship Traffic in the Barents Sea
Debien, Annekatrien; Bauna, Tony; Larsen, Hans Eilif
Kongsberg Satellite Services, NORWAY

Shipping in the Barents Sea is a challenging task, and with the melting of the Arctic sea ice, ship traffic is expected to increase over the next years. Dangers include icebergs, drift ice in areas of interest for oil companies, and the lack of communication satellite coverage. Users have indicated the need for information about ice edge movement, to avoid fishing vessels getting stuck in the ice when the ice edge is moving too fast, for ice berg detection and movement in the ice near Greenland, and monitoring of fishing activities around Svalbard. KSAT gives operational support in these situations, by offering ship detection and ice information services based on SAR imagery.

KSATs ship detection service consists of a ship detection on the SAR image, and correlation of the found objects with data from satellite AIS. Several sat-AIS sources are used, and the combination of those sources yields good results, with up to 83% of the ships found in the SAR images matched to an AIS signal, and up to 85% of the AIS signals also found in the SAR images. The reason for the first discrepancy can be attributed to ships without AIS/non-functioning AIS, or to icebergs, which look similar in SAR images.

In order to find out whether the signals in the SAR image are ships or icebergs, high resolution imagery can be used. With help of a super-resolution filter, the exact shape and look of the object can be determined, and thus classified as a ship or ice berg. This is useful for monitoring illegal activities, and ice berg drift.

Ice berg drift is in general not of importance to ships in open water, as they visually locate ice bergs and manoeuvre around them. However, in more dense ice, especially research purposes and drilling, information about ice conditions is of greater importance. These ships need as much information as possible about icebergs, and the daily movement of large ice floes so that action can be taken to avoid collisions.

One of the major challenges is to get this information out to the ships in near real time. In the Arctic, coverage by satellite broadband is limited, with even Iridium failing occasionally. The ICEMAR system will be able to send data over low bandwidth to the ships, without loss of data when the connection goes down. This should enable the users to get hold of the data they want, when they want it, even at 80 degrees north near the coast of Greenland.