• Date: Feb 2016
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World Ocean Council

The World Ocean Council (WOC) is the international, multi-industry leadership alliance on ocean sustainable development, science and stewardship – “Corporate Ocean Responsibility”. The WOC brings together ocean industries to address shared environmental concerns more effectively, engage in ocean policy and planning, and develop science-based solutions to cross-cutting environmental challenges that cannot be solved by one company or industry - all in support of responsible business, reduced risk, continued access, and sustainable development.

The application

The accurate and rapid detection and assessment of Tsunamis in the open ocean is critical for predicting how they will impact distant coastlines, enabling proactive mitigation and evacuation efforts to be undertaken as early as possible. Prevention Web statistics relating to the human and economic losses from disasters that have occurred between 1980 and 2008 reveal that over 2,400,000 people have been affected by the devastation caused by a Tsunami* highlighting a crucial need for effective early warning.

Until now only ocean seabed sensors have been used, but they are expensive to build and maintain. Gaps in network coverage and routine instrument outages have further limited their success in tsunami detection system.

Working with the WOC “Smart Ocean-Smart Industries” program, scientists from the University of Hawaii – Mānoa (UHM) School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), with funding from US NOAA, are partnering with Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company and Matson Navigation, to equip 10 vessels with real-time geodetic GPS systems and satellite communications.

Maersk’s fleet of vessels host instruments that create a network of low-cost tsunami sensors, to augment existing detection systems. The shipping fleet is in an ideal position to provide 'early warning' information that could make all the difference to those onshore oblivious to any impending disaster.

To be effective, the data must be relayed cost-effectively in near real time. The project is exploring how to best communicate the data using Inmarsat’s trusted and dependable FleetBroadband service on each vessel. FleetBroadband operates on the resilient L-band network to provide continuous coverage to ensure that critical data is received from ship to shore.

The resulting benefit

The pilot network has been installed on Maersk’s commercial vessels and scientists are confident their unique approach to acquiring more observations and data will prove a cost-effective solution to augment existing detection networks, with significant potential to save lives and reduce impacts to property and economies around the world.

The early warning system will be used to detect early tsunami activity in the Pacific Ocean region and issue timely warnings to shore. The systems will help to prevent the loss of life and economic damage caused to low-lying coastal areas and support nations and communities to become more resilient.

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