The safety of global maritime navigation depends on the reliable and fully operational equipment installed on board vessels and the skilled crew showing good seamanship and obeying the international conventions of the maritime law. As the number of vessels has been increasing worldwide, a rising density of the traffic can be observed across all the major fairways. Collision avoidance has therefore become even more important responsibility of the watchkeeping personnel, which “shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision” (Collision Regulations Convention).
In order to comply with the above-mentioned Rule 5 of the COLREGs, a dependable assessment of the traffic situation in the proximity of own vessel is necessary. The research activities of the Department of Nautical Systems concentrate, among others, on the development of algorithms and techniques of properly locating the nearby watercraft and the obstacles. The tests of newly developed target detection systems often require a deployment of vessels carrying a prototype on board. This allows for a validation under real traffic conditions. However, the number of possible scenarios involving the interaction between the test vessel and other traffic participants is limited, because of technical and legal constraints related to the overall safety of navigation at sea.
The Maritime Traffic Simulation System is a collection of software modules, which have been developed and deployed to create any imaginable traffic situation, be it safe or dangerous one, without leaving the laboratory. The system setup includes an interface to place own vessel together with a number of other vessels in a predefined exercise area generated from the official nautical charts. The vessels can be commanded to perform any chosen manoeuvre. A radar image, as seen from own vessel, is generated in real time and can be used as a data source for target acquisition subroutines. Additionally, a complete set of NMEA data streams describing the current state of own vessel and the AIS data transmitted by other vessels can be output on an array of serial interfaces. This allows for a data postprocessing or a real-time visualization of the traffic situation on the external bridge equipment like ECDIS.
Typical applications/scenarios are: