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  • Kim Burke

18/ The rules of the sea

Updated: May 4

Last week I spoke with Angus young, an Admiral Pilots at HMNB Faslane Naval base who's role is to navigate ships to manoeuvre safely through the port. My intention was to gain an insight into the navigation rules of the sea (especially lighting)!

Our conversation began by discussing the area he works in between the Gareloch and Loch Long, where fishing is prohibited and has been for some time for obvious reasons due to the naval base. Previously Gus discussed that this used to be a big issue, especially at night time as war ships and merchant ships passed through and struggled to identify the buoys in the water.

When questioning how the Tug boats (used to direct the submarines from Faslane out to sea), navigate in the water. Gus revealed that the Tugs soley rely on high intensity lighting and navigation marks on the land to direct them, keeping them in the centre of the channel. Gus continued to explain his role, stating that he remains on the submarine when guiding the ship out of the port and gives directions to the tugs ion order to manoeuvre safely out of the port.

Discussing a background of the issue regarding the loss of fishing equipment, Gus began conversation about ideas of drawing attention and visibility to buoys in the water. He began talking about Radar, which has been previously suggested by Richard, and suggested that attaching a radar reflector device to buoys that was light touch, small enough and cheap enough. He also suggested using a Radar Transponder, which will listen for signals coming from a radar, pick it up and then send its own signal back. (Achievable by products such as Racon, previously mentioned by Richard). Gus continued to discuss AIS (Automatic Identification System), saying that it works on a similar basis and is currently used across all ships above a certain size have to have AIS system, transmitting a radio signal.

Gus continued to tell a story of a fishermen last year that held a licence to fish on the edges of the loch, however placed his gear across the warships path, and subsequently lost his license. Gus explained that a rope getting caught in one fo the ships propellors could become tight enough too stop the proop working efficetnyl and damage thee engine. He expanded stating that often heaver gear such as metal chain (used to weigh rope down in the water) can also cause serious damage to a boat and understood the issue of damage, cost and pollution from both sides (the fishermen and himself) well.

"Almost every ship I ever served on, in my 25 years in the Navy picked up fishing gear and fishing pots at some stage in its time"

Overall the conversation with Gus was very interesting and it was evident he had a lot of knowledge about navigation lighting and suggested some interesting websites and sources to look at to assist my project. Rounding off the conversation, he concluded that either blue or white flashing light would be key for me to use to not interfere with current navigation systems. He expanded saying that the IMO - Inernational Maratime Organisation would need to approve the light characteristics of the buoy if the product was to take off and become international.

Discussing the need to keep the cost of the product low, Gus suggested to consider a range of products to give fishermen the choice (eg, low cost options and more advanced product options).

My next steps are to put my research into practice and get making and coding in preparation for the Mark 1 prototype presentations on the 3rd of March. My next blog post should see some more development of the project and it beginning to come to life!

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