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From real-time cargo tracking to crew and passenger management applications, Windows-based radar to floating data centres, ocean-going vessels are increasingly taking on-board the benefits of ICT.

One could be forgiven for assuming that the maritime industry would be one of the most advanced users of information and communications technology. Navigation,'logistics, efficiency - these are all crucial to the sector, and very much the domain of ICT. But step aboard the average ocean-going vessel and you're likely to see computing equipment that many landlubbers would consider decidedly behind the curve.

Maritime environments are not only life-critical, but they are also largely autonomous. Vessels of many kinds will be offshore for months at a time, and in many cases, such as on cargo ships, they will be staffed with a skeleton crew. They cannot afford for the equipment to go wrong.

Port of cork logo

Following a successful trial period, the Port of Cork has announced details of their partnership with Ringaskiddy based company Sea-Fi Marine Data Communication Ltd. Sea-Fi is a wireless network covering the navigational areas of Cork Harbour, from 12Km off Roches Point and for the last six months Sea-Fi have provided Wi-Fi on board the Port of Cork owned vessels, MV Denis Murphy and MV Gerry O'Sullivan.

This has proved very successful with the work vessels able to send and receive emails, images, and gain access to web cameras around Cork Harbour. It has also proven a time and money saver, eliminating the need for the work vessels and crew to go back to base for administrative purposes to process time-sheets, etc., as this can now be completed on board.

Using a GPS and RFID solution from Succorfish, IT services company SEA-Tech will help the Irish port monitor when and where a plow is lowered to the seafloor.

Ireland's Port of Cork is about to begin a trial of a vessel-tracking system that includes radio frequency identification technology, in order to obtain an electronic record of which areas of its seafloor are being dredged, and when. This will ensure that the port continues to upgrade the portage waters at the proper time and place. The RFID technology is part of a larger solution that employs GPS, cellular and satellite technologies to identify and report a vessel's location. With RFID, the system will indicate not only where the boat is located, but also when it has lowered or raised its plow into the water in order to scrape and level the seabed.

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