M o b i l e Docking A i d System for Ships
Laser Communications, Inc. (LCI), the marine division of Laser Technology, Inc. (LTI), has introduced a mobile laser docking aid system with almost all the features of a full-blown, fixed-base laser system. Many of the same ideas and concepts used on the NASA space shuttle project were employed in the development of the Rover mobile docking system. The Rover is built around an electrical, self-powered mobile chassis. The onboard rechargeable batteries provide power to move and relocate the entire docking system at respectable speeds (about 20 kph). The batteries also power the onboard computer, display sign and transmitter. The Rover is driven to a location estimated to be approximately amidships of the incoming ship. The docking aid system is then activated and left to operate, unmanned.
When the incoming ship comes into view, the Rover measures the closing speeds and distances and records the data on the computer for future reference. The pilot and captain can observe the closing distances and speeds on a display located on the Rover.
As an option, the closing speeds and distances can be relayed to pager-type, handheld receivers on the bridge of the ship and on the dock. Utilizing the latest in communications technology, the docking data can be sent anywhere in the world, if desired. The main purpose of the system is to provide the pilot with fast, accurate, usable information to help maneuver the ship for a safe, expedient landing without fender damage.
The data generated by the Rover can also be used for training purposes. The data will also be of use to dock owners in situations that warrant investigations of fender damage.
Some ports experience extreme tides, currents and traffic that expose a moored ship to drift-off. Also, as the tides change and the vessel is offloaded, the mooring lines can slacken and expose the ship to drift-off. During the high risk periods, the Rover can be used to monitor the ship for drift-off after it has been moored. The mobility of the Rover allows the docking aid system to be used at several different docks during the day and night. The Rover can also be configured to protect the operator and system from the environment. While waiting for the next landing, the Rover can be recharging its batteries back at the main office.