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Lynceus: People localisation for save ship evacuation during emergency

Tasos Kounoudes, Spyros Hirdaris, Douglas Owen,
Antonis Kalis, Zacharias Siokouros
Signal Generix Ltd., Lloyd's Register Strategic Research, Lloyd's Register SCANDPOWER Ltd., Maritime Institute of the Eastern Mediterranean

Abstract

This paper suggests a solution for the problem of improving the quality of response under extreme emergency situations on passenger ships, based on innovative technology currently under development through a 3.5M€ European Union Framework Programme 7 (EU FP7) funded project Lynceus. This small/medium enterprise (SME) driven research programme aims to investigate and demonstrate the potential of ultra low power wireless body area network technologies for enabling unobtrusive localisation and tracking of people for onboard and overboard search and rescue. Technology enabling is envisaged through the development of beyond the state of the art real time emergency management processes and safe evacuation systems which will significantly contribute towards early localisation and rescue of people in danger located onboard a ship or in the sea. The paper attributes special emphasis on the systems engineering approaches employed to collect, analyse and synthesise user requirements of the different target user groups, and produce a collection of refined usage scenarios. Accordingly, human-centred functional and technical specifications of the innovative technologies developed are presented based on background technology available and foreground technology currently developed by the consortium.

 

1. Introduction

A large number of studies and investigations have been carried out during the last few years following casualties involving ships. These studies identified the need to improve the evacuation, mustering and abandoning procedures, especially on passenger ships, as these are getting larger and larger, with some cruise ships reaching the capacity of more than 6000 people onboard. An essential stage in the above procedures is the counting and accounting for all persons onboard a passenger ship and controlling their movement for safe abandoning. The importance of this stage has been further highlighted in the relevant sections of the STCW Convention and Code of 1995 [1] as amended for passenger ships. Namely, the requirements of section V/2 & V/3 of the STCW Code for Ro-Ro [2] and passenger ships respectively.

The reports from the investigation of various serious incidents or casualties on passenger ships which resulted to loss of life, revealed the urgent need for improvements in the evacuation, mustering and abandoning procedures and especially on tracking and locating the whereabouts of each person onboard, at first, and secondly on the proper and correct counting of personnel. The last two are considered as the weak link in the whole process of ensuring the safe evacuation of all persons onboard. Despite the huge investment in maritime technology today, there is a significant drawback in all onboard systems used for safe evacuation of people in the sense that there is not any present technology which will enable real-time localisation, and tracking and of all persons onboard a ship during a real emergency evacuation. This inefficiency puts a great strain on the Master, Officers and crew when faced with a real emergency since the unknown location of the passengers onboard on real time may result in a sub-optimum response. The investigation of many of these incidents involving loss of life has identified two major areas where the search and rescue capabilities of both the ship and shore facilities could be improved with the application of new innovative technologies:

A: Onboard passenger and crew localisation/tracking during a real emergency evacuation from a ship

The lack of technology that allows the ship's command and crew to locate and track the passengers in real time in case of an emergency and also provide this information to a centralized control system for an efficient assessment of the emergency is a significant barrier in the development of a reliable and efficient Decision Support System that would minimize the risk of incomplete evacuation of the ship. The Master, ship officers and all crew involved in the safe evacuation of passengers are therefore in a very difficult and intense situation when faced with an emergency where they must make decisions to ensure the safety of a large number of passengers. Such situations were described by Kristiansen [3] where the inability to locate passengers during an emergency adds an additional complication to the efficient decision making during an emergency. The difficulty to predict factors such as the ship's motion, list, floating position, unexpected sudden changes of the environment (fire, flooding, explosion etc) affect the behaviour of the passengers which becomes unpredictable in a very dangerous environment. Even though there are established evacuation procedures to be followed during marine accidents, the industry still reports deaths as a result of people failing to follow these procedures or the procedures themselves being ineffective in evacuation and abandonment situations.

The investigation report for the sinking of the Queen of the North [4] which resulted in the death of two passengers stated that “Until technology is introduced into the preparation for abandonment phase, this stage will continue to be a weak link in the abandonment process – to the detriment of passenger and crew safety”. Other more fatal accidents such as the fire on the Scandinavian Star in 1990, which resulted in 158 deaths, demonstrated the difficulties that crew face with the counting of all passengers in an emergency [5]. A report on the accident describes how the Master had reported to the commander that all crew and passengers had left the ship, when in fact there were still survivors on board waiting to be rescued and a large number had died as a result of the fire and smoke.

Therefore, there is an increasing need for a sophisticated system which can track people onboard for ensuring real time location of each person. It is necessary that the system is effective in the extreme conditions under which search and rescue activities are often carried out and integrated into the search and rescue command, control and communication structures onboard. To do this, it must allow critical information to be collated and disseminated effectively within complex organizational structures. The system must also support directing and monitoring the progress of search and rescue efforts whilst accommodating distributed command and control across teams in remote and hard to access locations onboard.

B: Passenger and crew localisation after abandoning the ship, for search and rescue.

Even though current systems deployed in all ships include technologies which help localize lifeboats and life-rafts [6], there is still the crucial problem of localising individual passengers which may float in the sea away from the vicinity of the emergency due to extreme weather or ocean currents. As a result, the industry still counts loss of passengers in the sea. Current practice for localising those people is by search and rescue missions using helicopters relying mainly on vision. However, this approach is severely restricted by extreme weather and darkness. Most deaths accounted for in the sea are mainly due to hypothermia therefore it is extremely important to minimise the search and rescue time.

There are hundreds of passenger ships sailing worldwide today with some of them carrying thousands of passengers and crew. The largest cruise ship sailing today, with a building cost in excess of 1 billion euros, carries more than 8000 people onboard (passengers and crew), while an average cruise ship (with cost between 30-100M euro) carries 1500-3000 passengers. Despite considerable efforts having been made in developing intelligent systems that will enable passenger tracking while onboard and in the sea during an emergency, there is still no system available that is able to localise and track people in real time and use this information in an efficient Decision Support System that will enable the Master and Officers to respond and act accordingly. This is mainly due to the unavailability of wireless wearable technology which can work efficiently in harsh communication environments such as a huge steel structures (ships) and extreme environmental conditions in the case where people are in the sea. Major technological barriers that hamper low cost and safe evacuation include:

  1. Unavailability of extremely low powered, low cost wireless technology which could be embedded in wearable items such as life jackets; bracelets etc and enable real time localisation/tracking of the person wearing them. Techniques based on radio frequency identification devices (RFID) [7] are limited to counting of passengers while limited transmission range require a large number of RFID readers, thus escalating the cost.

  2. Unavailability of technology to monitor passenger behaviour and health status in real time during emergency. The behaviour of people during an emergency is unpredictable, which creates an additional risk factor in efficient and complete evacuation and prioritised assistance.

  3. Cruise ships are huge steel structures that provide a very challenging environment for wireless communications. Extreme multipath prohibits the large deployment of low powered wireless sensor networks while it also induces significant challenges in real time localisation/tracking.

  4. The deployment of thousands of wireless sensor nodes introduces many challenges in the communication system such as robust routing, communication protocols, and bandwidth availability is concerned.

  5. The technical barriers for robust wireless sensor network deployment in ships prohibit the deployment of various emergency monitoring sensors which will enable efficient monitoring of the emergency (e.g. fire, water ingress) spreading. As a result, current monitoring systems do not provide a full picture of the escalation of the emergency, thus the decision support systems are insufficient since they lack real-time information feedback from the emergency and surrounding environment.

  6. Unavailability of low-cost and robust technology able to localise people in the sea. GPS based systems have not been commercialised in this industry mainly due to their very high cost for mass deployment.

In the following sections we describe the proposed solution by Lynceus technology, and a brief description of the partners and the EU project initiative to implement it. Namely, in section II we provide an overview of the Lynceus vision. In section III, we describe the main technological components involved in proposed system.

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Τετάρτη, 24 Απριλίου 2013

TRAINING WORKSHOP, ΠΟΥ ΟΡΓΑΝΩΘΗΚΕ ΑΠΟ «ΕΛΙΝΤ» / «MAR.TEC.M.A.» / «Ε.Ε.Δ.Ε.» ΣΤΙΣ 19 & 20 ΑΠΡΙΛΙΟΥ 2013, ΣΤΑ ΠΛΑΙΣΙΑ ΤΩΝ ΕΚΔΗΛΩΣΕΩΝ:
«ΗΦΑΙΣΤΟΣ 2013» / ΑΘΗΝΑ & «HE.M.E.EXPO. 2013» / ΣΑΓΚΑΗ

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