In a creative twist, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) has deployed a virtual beacon system to help maritime traffic avoid damaging anchor strikes to the NYPA’s underwater transmission cables in Long Island Sound.
According to the NYPA, the Vesper Marine WatchMate Asset Protection is designed to help protect the NYPA’s 26-mile, 345 kV Long Island Sound cable, including its seven-mile underwater section, which has suffered two crippling anchor strikes since it was put into service in 1998. The last incident in 2014 cost $35 million in repairs.
Following the 2014 anchor strike, the NYPA issued a request for proposals seeking vendors to design and deploy a system that would monitor ship traffic in the vicinity of critical infrastructure and then make contact to direct them not to drop anchor.
The solution selected was Vesper Marine’s WatchMate Asset Protection, which combines virtual automatic identification system (AIS) technology with an innovative cloud-based software program to monitor and analyze vessel traffic and provide proactive alerts.
Using data sent from the AIS, an international maritime system through which large ships must report their position, speed and direction, the Vesper Marine Virtual AIS Beacon shore stations provide secure data transfer, allowing WatchMate Asset Protection to automatically alert the NYPA when a ship’s behavior indicates a potential anchoring situation in the vicinity of the Sound cable. It then transmits directly to the vessel an automatically addressed safety message, which appears on its onboard navigation system.
Theoretically, the technology could also be applied to offshore wind projects as they begin populating the shores off U.S. coasts, according to an NYPA spokesperson. “Although that wasn’t our intent, there’s no reason why the same technology couldn’t be applied to offshore wind.”