Innovative Radio System at Port of Liverpool

Innovative Radio System at Port of Liverpool

Radio communication specialist Northwest Radio has devised an intelligent radio system to assist in managing vessel traffic in the busy port of Liverpool. Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) are responsible for managing the VTS area, which includes the Port, River Mersey and the Port approaches. The new radio system allows VTS at the port to supply a range of services to ships, from simple radio communications to extensive traffic management 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 per year travelling on Irish Sea ferry services and cruise ships.

The new radio system, installed in 2008, is equipped with seven radio PC consoles, large touch screen monitors, and ten Icom PMR Repeaters to provide the necessary radio coverage. The system spreads its web across five locations via microwave links and fibre optics. A dual network path was installed to cater for the necessary bandwidth required by the new radio system and CCTV cameras.

The system covers the locks in Gladstone and Langton (controlled remotely from the central base), the Liverpool Grain Silo at the Port, Lynas on the North Welsh coast and the Manchester Ship Canal. Installation of the system was spread over the five sites over seven days, alongside the older system. The switchover was in a quiet period and went straightforwardly.

Paul Clay, VTS Manager at the Port of Liverpool, said, "The system allows us to speak with incoming vessels over a wide area and record all voice communication. The system has to be incredibly fine-tuned because of all the different standards of radio equipment onboard some international vessels."

He added, "We are able to coordinate the Pilotage of large vessels throughout the Port. A difficult task with the various shipping hazards."

The new system is centrally controlled by VTS from the Marine operations control room. Five radio PC consoles with large touchscreen monitors enable the operators to monitor traffic. VTS can also monitor traffic visually from the numerous CCTV cameras around the Port and locks.

The system has coverage in the following areas:

- Liverpool Grain Silo - 1 UHF IC-FR4100 Repeater, 3 VHF IC-FR3100 Repeaters
- Gladstone Lock - 1 UHF IC-FR4100 and 1 VHF IC-FR3100 Repeater
- Langton Lock - 1 UHF IC-FR4100 and 1 VHF IC-FR3100 Repeater
- Lynas – 1 VHF Master IC-FR3100 Repeater and 1 Slave IC-FR3100 Repeater

Liverpool Grain Silo
The Liverpool 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 UHF talk-through system was installed to give communications between port workers around the docks. This is also monitored by VTS for safety purposes. The height of the Silo provides the system with excellent coverage.

Gladstone and Langton Locks
There are two remotely operated Lock's. The Gladstone and the Langton Locks have an IC-FR3100 on fixed marine channels for vessels coming into the Locks. An IC-FR4100 is used at each location for onsite engineers. Each Lock is also equipped with a PC console with a large touchscreen monitor to enable operation in case of a major emergency.

Port Lynas in Anglesey
Paul Benson, Technical Director of Northwest Radio Communications, said, 'One of the main challenges of setting up this radio system was to get Port Lynas, the furthest point on the system. There is no network connection in this area so we engineered a solution that brings back radio transmissions by BT four wire line. We installed two IC-F3100 VHF repeaters with multiple channels at Point Lynas. The system is set up in a master standby configuration, so if one fails, then we can easily switch to a reserve base station and antenna.

So what have been the benefits of the system? Paul Clay, VTS Manager 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 allows us to relocate operations to other sites on the system.

He added, "Our mandate is straightforward. Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) contribute to the safety of life at sea, the safety and efficiency of navigation and the protection of the marine environment. The Port has ambitious plans for the future, with a brand new Cruise Terminal already in operation, there will be more cruise liners coming into the Port, which will mean extra work for the new radio system."

Paul Benson said, "This was a challenge to implement due to the requirements of the Port. We enjoyed working closely with Paul Clay in order to ascertain his requirements. The system was swapped over from the old system without any major problems. Training was given to all operators over several shifts to ensure a smooth changeover."


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