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Virtual markers coming to Bay of Plenty harbours

Friday, 19 December 2014 2:00 p.m.

The approaches to Bay of Plenty harbours will have electronic markers early next year warning of hazardous reefs and shoals.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Harbour Master Peter Buell said the Council has been working through the process of having virtual markers in the harbour for some time.

“This is modern equipment that is already installed on most big vessels that pass through our harbours, so it makes sense to have it, especially for such a busy port as the Port of Tauranga. The approach to the Port of Tauranga has a number of underwater hazards lying near the routes taken by ships,” Mr Buell said.

“There will be seven markers, and we can install more if we need to. The markers are electronic, and appear only on ship navigational systems. A hazard – such as Astrolabe Reef (Otaiti) where the Rena grounded – appears as a digital information object on the ship’s navigation system, electronic charts and radar.”

The virtual marker is transmitted from an Automatic Identification System station, and alerts both the ship and the Regional Council that the vessel is heading towards a charted danger, or enters the no-go zone around each hazard.

The markers will be linked to Astrolabe reef, Brewis Shoal, Okaparu reef, Penguin shoal, Pudney Rock, Tūhua reef and Volkner rocks initially. The hardware part of the system will be on the Minden, the same place that the Port has equipment.

He said the Council had considered a physical beacon on Astrolabe Reef, but it would be impossible to maintain in the reef’s challenging environment. After receiving an offer to fund the implementation of additional navigational aids, the Council embarked upon a tendering process with the contract to install the markers consequently awarded to Vesper Marine this month, the same company that provided Virtual Aids to Navigation in the Auckland area.

“We can expand the system as needed. We’re still working on the timings for the system to be operational but are targeting the first quarter of next year.

 “This will be a substantial step forward in navigation safety in the Bay of Plenty. While not all vessels right now will see these aides, about 70 percent will and that figure will climb in the future,” Mr Buell said. 

Tauranga Harbour lowres (1)