Assisted text messaging system for maritime emergency communications

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Carlo AndreottiPierpaolo BagliettoMassimo MarescaStefano Strada

Abstract: Effective and clear communication transfers information, creates an experience in others and causes a reaction. In personal or professional relationships, effective communication is hindered by social and cultural inhomogeneities, and this is the main cause of misunderstandings.Misunderstandings in voice communication have also been identified as the main cause of accidents at sea; although English is used and recognized as an official language for maritime communications, an incorrect pronunciation or accent can cause misunderstanding or even change meaning. Therefore, it is extremely useful to adopt models, protocols and rules aimed at reducing misunderstandings as much as possible.During the years, IMO (International Maritime Organization) has developed the Standard Marine Communication Phrases (SMCP), a set of well-defined sentences, written in a very simplified English, aimed at mitigating the aforementioned problem. Past studies have shown that SMCP is not commonly used and difficulties to pronounce and understand English spoken by different nationalities remains.This paper presents an innovative communication system, developed by the University of Genoa with the collaboration of the Italian Coast Guard in the context the Maritime Interreg project ISIDE, that exploits the possibility of sending text messages through the AIS devices that boats are equipped with.Commercial vessels with a gross tonnage equal to or greater than 300 tons and all passenger ships (regardless of their size) are in fact obliged to equip themselves with the Automatic Identification System (AIS), essentially based on digital VHF radios that can transmit, in an automated and continuous manner, information such as ship name, type of ship, position, course and speed over ground, navigation conditions and other safety-related information.A user-friendly interface has been developed to assist the operator in selecting the appropriate message among those provided by the SMCP standard or alternatively to compose a personalized text, both in the beginning of a new conversation and in the reply to a previously received message. The system can be integrated in professional consoles, standard web interfaces and apps and also on wearable devices such as smart watches. The system takes care of transmitting and receiving information AIS device as the communication channel.The user interface has also been implemented in several languages (i.e., English, Italian, French…) and the received/transmitted SMCP messages are automatically translated into the native language of the operator, thus eliminating language barriers and reducing misunderstandings.The system has been tested during several SAR exercise with the support of the Italian Coast Guard and the results are presented in the full paper.In order to extend the application also to smaller leisure boats, the system will be experimented in the near future using Marine VHF devices able to transmit text messages according the RTCM 12301.1 standard proposed by the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services.

Keywords: Emergency communication, AIS system, IMO standard phrases, assisted communication user interface

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1002512

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