Coast Guard plans data center to monitor vessels

The Coast Guard will begin operating a new international data exchange center starting Jan. 1, 2009, to track the positions at sea of about 3,000 ships per day, according to a final rule published in the Federal Register.

Under an agreement with the International Maritime Organization, the Coast Guard will run the data center for the Long-Range Identification and Tracking system until Dec. 31, 2010, but the data center's fate after that date has not yet been determined.

The service's identification and tracking applies to ships on international voyages that come within 1,000 nautical miles of U.S. territories. That includes passenger ships carrying 12 or more people. The Coast Guard estimates the rule applies to about 3,000 vessels a day, of which the majority are ships not owned by U.S. organizations.

The Coast Guard estimates spending about $1 million a year to pay for the ship owners' costs of automatically transmitting the vessels' global positioning data by satellite to the data center. That is based on each ship transmitting four times a day.

However, the International Maritime Organization's Maritime Safety Committee, at its meeting starting May 7, will consider a proposal to reduce the required number of transmissions to two per day.

"Reducing required transmissions to two per day would reduce the communications cost of transmissions from ship-to-data-center by half," the Federal Register notice states. "The Coast Guard believes this proposal deserves serious consideration as a cost saving vehicle that has little, if any, adverse impact on the maritime domain awareness benefits to be derived from LRIT."

Identification and tracking systems, and geospatial positioning systems, which include radios, networks, software and storage systems, afford significant contract opportunities to the private sector. The potential value of the business opportunity associated with the Long Range Identification and Tracking system was not immediately available.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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