EMEC Gears Up To Test Sea Sites

A new safety system is providing information about shipping activity in the waters where wave and tidal energy devices are tested in Orkney. The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), has set up two receiving stations that pick up transmissions from ships operating near its test sites and over a wide sea area. The information is important for EMEC, as it prepares for an increase in testing activity, but is also available to the public over the internet.

The main aim is to ensure that marine energy machines can operate safely at the wave test site in Atlantic waters to the west of Stromness and at the tidal test site off Eday. But the information gathered is also fed into international databases that allow the movement of shipping worldwide to be charted on two freely available websites.

The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is used by vessels to provide a wide range of information, including their position, speed and course. EMEC has established receiving stations at the Black Craig in the West Mainland and on Eday to pick up AIS transmissions from shipping operating in Orkney waters.

“As more and more devices are installed at the wave and tidal test sites, it’s crucial that we have a clear and constantly updated source of information about vessels working in and around those areas,” said Neil Kermode EMEC’s managing director. “AIS is a well proven system used by shipping worldwide and has an important role to play in ensuring that marine energy technologies and passing vessels can all operate safely in our local waters.”

Before the installation of the receiving station on the Black Craig, the surrounding sea area was regarded as an AIS blackspot, with hills and cliffs in the area blocking transmissions from ships to other stations on Orkney Mainland. Standing at 113 metres above sea level, with an uninterrupted view to the west of Orkney, the Black Craig station is now picking up signals from across the area.

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