ACCSEAS 2015 CONFERENCE: Navigating the North Sea Region into the Future

The ACCSEAS project ends on a high delivering an excellent demonstration of e-Navigation to the North Sea Region

ACCSEAS, an EU-funded project to support improved maritime access to the North Sea Region through minimising navigational risk, welcomed over more than 130 regional and international shipping experts to the World Trade Centre in Rotterdam for its Final Annual Conference, in February.

The ACCSEAS Conference presented an array of e-Navigation test-bed solutions, all of which are aimed at increasing accessibility and improving navigational safety in the increasingly busy shipping waters of the North Sea Region.

Spanning three days, the Conference included demonstrations of potential e-navigation solutions including the Vessel Operations Co-ordination Tool, Dynamic Predictor, Multi-Source Positioning Service and No-Go Area.  The Conference also hosted a number of lively panel discussions and workshops that looked at the navigator experience of the future, the implementation of future
e-navigation services and the future challenges simulated environments face.

The ACCSEAS Conference was officially opened by Mrs Brigit Gijsbers, in her capacity as Netherlands’ Director of Maritime Affairs.  In her remarks, Gijsbers congratulated ACCSEAS for its success and made the following statements:

“Our country is situated on the shores of one of the busiest sea areas of the world, with currently over 243,000 ship movements along our coast and to/from our seaports.  However, we should realise that shipping is no longer the only user community of the navigable space at sea.

The increasing demands for alternative utilisation of this space, for instance through the installing of windmill farms and other offshore activities, as well as the declaration of no-go areas in the context of the “EU Natura 2000 program” may significantly decrease the navigable space for shipping. Consequently the safe and secure navigation and the regional accessibility will increasingly be put under pressure.

The findings as reflected in the ACCSEAS’ ‘Baseline and Priorities Report’ for the North Sea Region show, from a shipping and traffic management perspective provide a somewhat worrying picture for the North Sea Region after 2020+. The conclusions of this report; based on predictions for the future mean that we cannot be sure they will be 100% correct but should still be considered as a serious wakeup call for all regional administrations and competent authorities who have responsibility.

We, all the North Sea countries, are faced with significant future challenges. We should be aware of the fact that, due to a number of shipping accidents with environmental impact in the past, the public awareness increased considerably over the years.”    

Gijsbers concluded by saying “I am confident that the combination of the outcome of this event and the results and legacy of the ACCSEAS project will provide us all with a solid basis for a harmonised implementation of e-navigation and the necessary future transnational cooperation in the North Sea Region. We in the Netherlands will be ready to contribute in a common approach to these challenges and substantial developments and we are looking forward to regional collaboration.”

Mr Francis Zachariae, Secretary-General of IALA/AISM gave an excellent keynote speech, stating “ACCSEAS’s main inspiration can be seen in its Baseline and Priorities report; a fantastic document and worth a read.”
Zachariae put safety into perspective by making the following comment “Strikingly EMSA’s website shows some alarming accident figures for 2014; a total of 2,550 accidents, 81 of which were serious and 51 ships were lost. Compare this to air traffic and it equates to one aeroplane crash every day!

This clearly shows there is a lot that we need to do, ACCSEAS has presented the main challenges faced and as a test-bed has developed solutions that tackle these issues. We must continue to work with member states to make these a reality.”

The Conference was confidently chaired by maritime expert, Mr Kees Polderman. Polderman commented: “The aims of the conference have been highly matched with what has been demonstrated and discussed, ACCSEAS has proven to be an excellent project and this has been a successful conference but how can we make sure things move more quickly? The legacy from this is a simple and clear recommendation - let’s get on and do it! This project has demonstrated that we have the solutions now and we have the right people invested. We must continue to push ahead and ensure they are implemented and used effectively.”

Dr Alwyn Williams, ACCSEAS Project Manager concluded: “The Final ACCSEAS Conference has given stakeholders in the North Sea Region and beyond an opportunity to experience the solutions the project has developed and also looked at ways of moving these forward. We’ve had excellent feedback from users throughout the project, they have said they will miss the solutions, which is a telling sign of their potential impact. The ACCSEAS partners have driven forward with a clear goal of providing a demonstration of e-Navigation and the overall experience has been a positive one. ACCSEAS is just the beginning, the solutions we have developed will help the navigator to do their job and the ACCSEAS solutions offer real benefits to the North Sea Region.”

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