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LONG RANGE IDENTIFICATION AND TRACKING OF SHIPS (LRIT):

WHAT, WHY, HOW & WHEN ?

Capt. Noor Apandi OSNIN


Research Fellow, Centre for Ocean Law and Policy
Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA), Unit B-06-10, Megan Avenue II,
12, Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, 50450, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: + 603-21612960; Fax: + 603-21614045

apandi@mima.gov.my
December 2006

1. What ?

1.1. The LRIT system provides for the global identification and tracking of ships.
LRIT information is provided to Contracting Governments and Search and
Rescue services entitled to receive the information, upon request, through a
system of National, Regional, Co-operative and International LRIT Data
Centres.

1.2. Each Contracting Government should provide to the LRIT Data Centre it has
selected, a list of the ships entitled to fly its flag, which are required to
transmit LRIT information, together with other salient details and should
update, without undue delay, such lists as and when changes occur.

1.3. Ships should only transmit the LRIT information to the LRIT Data Centre
selected by their Contracting Government at no cost to them. Marshall
Island, at Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) 82nd Session held in
November/December 2006, presented information on LRIT data captured
using current shipboard GMDSS equipment. Estimated transmission cost for
their set-up is USD 0.50 1 .

2. Why ?

2.1. The Maritime Safety Committee, at its 81st Session in May 2006, adopted
amendments to chapter V of the SOLAS convention in relation to LRIT.
Subsequent to this, a Working Group on Engineering aspects of LRIT was
established.

2.2. The SOLAS regulation on LRIT establishes a multilateral agreement for


sharing LRIT information for security and search and rescue purposes,
amongst SOLAS Contracting Governments, in order to meet the maritime
security needs and other concerns of such Governments.

2.3. It maintains the right of flag States to protect information about the ships
entitled to fly their flag, where appropriate, while allowing coastal States
access to information about ships navigating off their coasts. The SOLAS
regulation on LRIT does not create or affirm any new rights of States over
ships beyond those existing in international law, particularly, the United
Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), nor does it alter or

1
NA Osnin. (2006). Report on the maritime safety committee (MSC) 82nd session, 28 December – 08
November 2006, Polat Renaissance Hotel, Istanbul. Kuala Lumpur: MIMA.

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affect the rights, jurisdiction, duties and obligations of States in connection
with UNCLOS 2 .

3. How 3 ?

3.1. The LRIT System components will consist of the following:

3.1.1. The ship borne LRIT information transmitting equipment;

3.1.2. The Communication Service Provider(s);

3.1.3. The Application Service Provider(s);

3.1.4. The LRIT Data Centre(s), including any related Vessel Monitoring
System(s);

3.1.5. The LRIT Data Distribution Plan; and

3.1.6. The International LRIT Data Exchange.

Figure 1: LRIT system architecture

Source: IMO.

3.2. Tracking of any applicable ship begins with LRIT positional data being
transmitted from the ship borne equipment. The LRIT information
transmitted includes the ship’s position, time and identification. The term
ship, as defined by the performance standards and functional requirements

2
IMO (2006). Long range identification and tracking. [Retrieved 12 December 2006 from
http://www.imo.org/Safety/mainframe.asp?topic_id=905]
3
IMO (2006). Report of the outcome of the inter sessional meeting of the ad-hoc working group on the
engineering aspects of the long range and tracking of ships. MSC 82/8/1. London: IMO.

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for LRIT, includes mobile offshore drilling units and high-speed craft as
specified in SOLAS regulation V/19-1.4.1.

3.3. The Communication Service Provider (CSP) provides the communication


infrastructure and services that are necessary for establishing a
communication path between the ship and the Application Service Provider
(ASP). The LRIT information transmitted from the ship will travel across the
communication path set up by the CSP to the ASP.

3.4. The ASP, after receiving the LRIT information from the ship, will add
additional information to the LRIT message and pass along the expanded
message to its associated LRIT Data Centre. Functionality required for the
programming and communicating of commands to the ship borne equipment
is provided by the ASP.

3.5. LRIT Data Centres will store all incoming LRIT information from ships
instructed by their Contracting Governments to transmit LRIT information to
that Data Centre. LRIT Data Centres will disseminate LRIT information to
LRIT Data Users according to the Data Distribution Plan (DDP).

3.6. The Data Distribution Plan will contain the information required by the Data
Centres for determining how LRIT information will be distributed to the
various Contracting Governments. The DDP will contain information such as
standing orders from Contracting Governments and geographical polygons
relating to Contracting Governments coastal waters, ports and port facilities.

3.7. The Data Centres will process all LRIT messages to and from the
International LRIT Data Exchange (IDE). The IDE will process all LRIT
messages between LRIT Data Centres. The IDE will route the message to
the appropriate Data Centre based upon the information contained within
the DDP. The IDE will neither process nor store the positional data
contained within LRIT messages.

3.8. LRIT Data Users may be entitled to receive or request LRIT information in
their capacity as a flag State, port State, coastal State or Search and Rescue
(SAR) service.

4. When ?

4.1. The first meeting of the Group on Engineering aspects of LRIT was held in
Vancouver, Canada from 21 - 23 June 2006. It was chaired by Dr. Sam
Ryan of the Canadian Coast Guard who was appointed as Chairman by the
Maritime Security Working Group (MSWG) at MSC 81. It was attended by
representatives from Canada, China, Germany, Greece, Japan, Marshall
Islands, Norway and the United States including observers from CIRM
(Comité International Radio-Maritime) and IMSO; a total of 25 participants.

4.2. The second Meeting was held in Paris, France from 6 – 8 September 2006. It
was also chaired by Dr. Sam Ryan (Canada) and was attended by
representatives from Australia, Canada, China, Egypt, Germany, Greece,
Japan, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden,
the United Kingdom and the United States including observers from CIRM
(Comité International Radio-Maritime) and the European Commission; a total
of 32 participants.

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4.3. An informal Drafting Group on Engineering aspects of Long-Range
Identification and Tracking of ships was then held in London from 3 – 4
October 2006. It was again chaired by Dr. Sam Ryan (Canada) and was
attended by the representatives from Canada and Germany including
observers from CIRM (Comité International Radio-Maritime); a total of eight
participants.

4.4. During the debate on LRIT at MSC 82, the main contention seems to be on
costing and billing. This issue is expected to be resolved by MSC 83 in
October 2007 4 .

4.5. The Committee at MSC 82, subsequent to its decision to re-establish the
Group, approved the revised Terms of Reference for the Ad hoc Working
Group on the Engineering aspects of LRIT to further develop:

4.5.1. the draft technical specifications;

4.5.2. update the required technical documents;

4.5.3. prepare a technical costing and billing standard;

4.5.4. consider technical issues and develop technical criteria to be taken


into account when establishing the International LRIT Data Centre and
the International LRIT Data Exchange;

4.5.5. liaise with the IMO Secretariat regarding consistency, security and
other aspects of the Data Distribution Plan with the technical
specifications; and

4.5.6. ensure that the testing documents completely address the


Performance Standards.

4.6. In view of the very short timeframe before the due date of the
implementation of the LRIT system, MSC 82 instructed the sub committee on
Radio Communications, Search and Rescue (COMSAR) at its 11th Session in
March 2007 to consider LRIT issues and extended the deadline for
submission on LRIT issues to 22 December 2006.

4.7. The Committee invited Member States to ensure that appropriate LRIT
experts on matters other than the specific engineering aspects (to participate
in the legal and financial debates) were included in their delegations to
COMSAR 11.

4.8. The obligations of ships to transmit LRIT information and the rights and
obligations of Contracting Governments and of Search and Rescue services
to receive LRIT information is established in regulation V/19-1 of the 1974
SOLAS Convention.

4.9. Relevant amendments to SOLAS were adopted by Maritime Safety


Committee, at its 81st Session in May 2006. These amendments will enter
into force on 1 January 2008 and the system will become operational by 31
December 2008.

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IMO (2006). CIRM submission on long range identification and tracking. MSC 82/8/6. London: IMO.

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