MSC Cruises has announced a real-time vessel tracking, tracing and monitoring system, developed with the software design company Quality Positioning Services (QPS). According to MSC, this voyage planning and monitoring system (VP & MS) allows it to implement route analysis and track each of its ships with an update rate of one second and an accuracy of less than five metres.

This initiative follows the Concordia incident when Cruise Industry News asked if this could have been prevented by a simple alert system. (As airlines track their planes, cruise lines can surely track their ships?)

MSC’s state-of-the-art system comprises five main components: The conversion and forwarding - via VSat and KU band systems - of all data received by the ship’s navigation instruments and engine control room to the MSC Cruises technical department in Sorrento. A QPS Connect server based at the technical department. Qastor, a route preparation and route analysis tool used by MSC staff in Sorrento. An office-based real-time monitoring and emergency control system. And, a dedicated MSC website showing all MSC Cruises’ ships with true nautical electronic navigation charts (ENCs).

“This state-of-the-art technology complements our on board crew’s vast knowledge, experience and capacity to proactively and efficiently manage unexpected situations. By providing this additional back-up system, we are able to make sure that our crew are 100% supported at all times and in all circumstances,” said Emilio La Scala, general manager, MSC Cruises Technical Department.

The system means that each ship is constantly sending information, including its own position, speed, heading and course together with all other ship targets within a 40 mile radius, to the shore based QPS Connect server in Sorrento. In order to provide a reliable traffic image, the QPS Connect server fuses the real-time vessel information with real-time information from terrestrial based AIS networks.

A Qastor system, a precise navigation, piloting and docking software application, is used to plan ship routes in advance. Before the route is sent to the vessel a detailed route scan is performed in order to detect possible shallow and so-called “no go areas.” Following this scan, and only once the route is considered 100 percent safe, the route is then exported to the vessel’s ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System) on board.

A route monitoring and alert system makes up part of the QPS Connect server. In case a vessel exceeds its predefined route limits, enters a no-go area or exceeds a predefined speed limit, an automated alarm is given to the shore based company offices. This alarm sounds within seconds of the event. The officer of the watch can then take immediate corrective action if required and guide the vessel back on its right course.

A dedicated website is available to other key maritime staff of MSC. The website provides a complete real-time overview of the position of each vessel. In addition to the past vessel track, the active route is also available to provide an up-to-date and accurate overview.

Additionally, trim and list data as well as data collected from the engine control system and the onboard weather system are also sent to the QPS Connect server in real-time. This data is continuously available to MSC Cruises maritime operations staff to support the tactical decision making process in case of emergency. All data is continuously stored for post analysis and support of training.

Environmental impact due to emissions is also kept to a minimum by monitoring technical data such as power and fuel consumption.

With this track, trace and monitoring system, MSC Cruises said it ensures the highest level of security and safety to its passengers and crews.