Mapping hazards for greater safety

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) store, display, and allow the manipulation of geographic or spatial data facilitating sharing and analysis of this information. Essentially, one can think of it as map-making on the computer, and using these maps to analyse a situation and solve problems.

To work safely and efficiently fishing vessels, need practical and available information on the vast systems of power cables, connecting energy infrastructure

The use of GIS in industry has allowed businesses to cut costs through increased efficiency and enhanced communication. Better record keeping and decision making are akin to managing on a geographic level. These tools also allow for easier compliance with government regulation. Movements of water play an important role in fisheries and aquatic science. Although water is dynamic and ever-changing, GIS technology has given scientists and industry the ability to track, store, and navigate for relevant information. Satellite imagery can be used to identify closures, show habitat loss, track invasive and endangered species, and manage fleets, among almost an infinite number of other applications. Essentially, the capabilities of GIS as a tool in fisheries is based on the ability to update and share data through a network for online data collection. GIS allows for the clear interpretation of metadata in by bringing together a lot of information in a visually appealing and useful way.

Using spatial data has grown in appeal to members of Europe’s fishing industry in recent years as gathering and storing data has become easier and cheaper as the technology develops. Today, GIS has attracted new categories of users, such as industry members, who employ it not just for research, or government compliance, but also to ease access of information and create real time visual data that can be relayed across vast networks. As more data is collected, historical observation allows for detailed analysis of problems facing the fisheries sector today, and collaboration with other industries enables the transmission of data across different systems.


Surface and subsea offshore hazard mapping

Among those exploring GIS capabilities is the Kingfisher division of Seafish, a company that has provided the industry with information regarding offshore structures and the seabed for the past 40 years and helped to improve safety and raise awareness of surface and subsea hazards along the coasts of the UK and around Northern Europe. Kingfisher sits within the Fishing Safety workstream at Seafish, a Non Departmental Public Body that aims to improve efficiency and raise product standards in the UK seafood industry. Kingfisher is dedicated to the management and dissemination of spatial data and maps, with the remit of improving fishers’ awareness of potentially hazardous offshore structures. Aled Nicholas, an information officer at Kingfisher, gave some insight on how they have developed GIS as a tool over the last four years for mapping subsea hazards to be distributed to vessels through a variety of communication and data networks. Kingfisher has always been responsible for providing information on surface and subsea hazards for fishing vessels, but transitioned to the use of GIS technology from CAD, an older mapping system, to help improve database efficiency and map creation. The transition to mapmaking in GIS, has given the department new capabilities to display more data, and help to supply better information to fishing vessels throughout Northern Europe.

As installations of new renewable energy structures, oil and gas wells and other infrastructure increase in the seas of Northern Europe, it has become increasingly important for vessels, to be informed of what activities are taking place and where. Fishing vessels have had to adapt to the increasing demands of avoiding offshore infrastructure and zones such as marine protected areas. Offshore infrastructure, including telecommunication, power cables and wind farms, is increasing in the North and Irish Seas. In order to make fishing vessels aware of the cornucopia of subsea hazards, which are potential threats to safety, Kingfisher works with the oil and gas, subsea cable and renewable energy industries collecting and mapping up to date and accurate information that can be easily accessed by fishers. Because new structures are installed offshore so frequently, many of their locations are not reflected quickly enough, or accurately on admiralty charts that vessels use to navigate.

KIS-ORCA graphic display of subsurface pipelines throughout the North Sea


Cables, wind farms, oil and gas installations

Kingfisher Information Service - Offshore Renewable and Cable Awareness project (KIS-ORCA) is a joint initiative between the renewables industry, and subsea cable industry to supply fishing vessels with the most accurate and up to date information on the exact location of offshore and subsea hazards. This is primarily to ensure the safety of fishermen, but also helps prevent damage to infrastructure by vessels. With this information fishing vessels can see a display of potential hazards that exist in the seabed and ensure they avoid them.
Offshore Oil and Gas infrastructure may also pose a significant hazard to vessels fishing in the vicinity of oil and gas fields. As with KIS-ORCA, the offshore industries work with Kingfisher to ensure their structures are mapped accurately and in a timely manner – a project called FishSAFE. Over the last 15 years, Kingfisher and the oil and gas industry have successfully managed the FishSAFE programme to gather and distribute spatial data on pipelines, wellheads, and other structures.


Projects supply information to fishers

As part of KIS-ORCA and FishSAFE the UK fishermen’s federations distribute data throughout the UK. Vessels receive a CD, SD card or USB stick containing all the project data for their on-board fishing plotter system. Vessels can also access information for free through the KIS-ORCA website for cables and subsea hazards and though the FishSAFE website for oil and gas developments, where they can obtain a preview of data, with layers including cable networks, wind farms, offshore drilling sights, and electric substations, among other hazards. This data can be downloaded directly and integrated into plotter systems. The spatial information is converted by Kingfisher into formats compatible with the plotter systems frequently used by fishing vessels. Using this information in the plotter system gives skippers a real time visual display of their exact location relative to the cable or hazards.

Fishing vessels have many obstacles to navigate in order to avoid grounding, like this subsea wellhead.


Constantly-changing data is a challenge to disseminate

Because most marine data is extremely dynamic by nature, it can pose large challenges to providing up to date maps, and spatial data. Most databases offer annual updates, but in reality the information changes much more rapidly, with wind farm installations, and new wells added several times a month. Kingfisher has adapted to these challenges and, although, KIS-ORCA data is updated annually and FishSAFE data biannually, Kingfisher supplements the data by providing biweekly bulletins to fisherman informing them of any changes that have taken place in addition to using social media to send out updates. Although this information is not reflected in the vessels’ plotter systems, it does help to increase awareness about potential new hazards. Due to technology limitations, collecting real time data is very difficult, especially since hazards change so frequently. Imperfect communication between data collectors, and those who package it also contributes to limitations associated with the technology and presents a challenge to retrieving the most up to date data possible. Coordination and harmonisation of data has become a significant challenge to the adaptation of spatial marine data, not just for offshore hazards and subsurface mapping, but also for vessel tracking and management systems.

Integrating GIS technologies for greater ease of mapmaking and easier dissemination of data, has given Kingfisher more room to incorporate more data features into their products. The information provided by Kingfisher, including web mapping, is of great use for anyone in the fishing industry, says Aled Nicholas. Web mapping provides a simple tool to display spatial data on a website that can also be made interactive to facilitate ease of use. He sees Kingfisher expanding upon their current capabilities by including more web mapping, to accommodate any changes that are not reflected in the less frequent data updates for plotter systems. GIS is a handy tool that provides fishing vessels with a reliable resource to navigate subsea and offshore hazards.

Andrew Orringer, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.