Nortel Government Solutions (NGS) announced it has won a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) contract to maintain and support the Mandatory Ship Reporting System (MSR) – a system which is helping the U.S. Coast Guard to protect a critically endangered species of whale.
The contract is a re-compete of the original 1999 contract, also won by NGS, for the initial building, implementation and maintenance of the MSR system.
The MSR was originally developed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help prevent collisions between commercial ships and the endangered North Atlantic right whale. After whaling nearly wiped them out 100 years ago, there are approximately 350-400 right whales alive today. Their biggest threat is not from whaling, but from collisions with vessels and entanglements with fishing gear.
The Coast Guard has sought to improve mariner awareness of whale habitats and identifying whale locations has become a key strategy to reduce the risk of ship strikes. Captains, who routinely navigated through right whale habitats, need updated sighting information to avoid these collisions.
In April 1999, the U.S. government won approval to monitor two reporting areas under the the Mandatory Ship Reporting System (MSR) from the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO). Nortel Government Solutions has worked with the USCG through the lifecycle of the Mandatory Ship Reporting System, including its design, development and maintenance. After initial implementation, the system was enhanced to include web enabling of the reporting functions and message updates. Today the MSR helps prevent collisions between right whales and commercial vessels by providing mariners with the most current whale sighting information in and around specific right whale critical habitats. In short, right whales now have the right of way.
A computer server, operated and maintained by Nortel Government Solutions, handles and stores incoming ship reports, which are messages received as standard Internet-based emails or INMARSAT-C (International Maritime Satellite) telexes. NOAA manually populates the MSR with last known locations of right whales. When a vessel reports its entry within either of the two reporting areas, WHALESNORTH – off the Massachusetts coast – or WHALESSOUTH – off the coast of Georgia and Florida – the system provides the vessel with a whale location report and precautionary advice on how to avoid collisions. An interface with the U.S. Coast Guard’s vessel management data provides ship routing information, determines system compliance and identifies probable violators.
From 1999 to 2002, the first three years of the system’s operation, over two thousand valid ship report records were received and processed into the MSR. This knowledge may also contribute to consideration of other initiatives such as possible speed restrictions, re-routing measures, areas to be avoided, navigational safety enhancements, enforceability and economic impact of regulations-all while enhancing educational programs advising mariners on better ways to avoid collisions.