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British Antarctic Survey blends science and surveillance at sea
Source: Synectic Systems
Surveillance and science aren’t a typical combination but for British Antarctic Survey, it’s a perfect pairing for polar exploration.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is one of the world's leading environmental research bodies and is responsible for the UK's scientific activities in Antarctica. Its specially designed research ships are among the most advanced in their field, which is why choosing the right technology to protect them is paramount.

BAS selected Synectics' surveillance solutions to safeguard crew, science teams and research technology on-board the pioneering RRS (Royal Research Ship) James Clark Ross, which was recently involved in vital research into the effects of Climate Change on the Pine Island Glacier.

RRS James Clark Ross is an ice-class vessel built for extremes, from sailing through 1m thick pack ice at -30oC, to navigating in 100 knot winds with poor visibility. Designed for conducting biological, oceanographic and geophysical cruises (around 6 per year) primarily in the Antarctic, and equipped as a full floating laboratory, the ship is one of the most sophisticated marine research vessels in the world.

Randolph Sliester, Head of BAS Shipping, believes the ‘situational awareness’ delivered by Synectics camera and monitoring solutions on board is integral to ongoing scientific study.

He explained: “Whether it’s lowering trawl nets for fish stock and plankton analysis, or deploying 8 ton corers to obtain sea-bed sediment samples, in our work and the environment in which we operate, risk mitigation is paramount. There needs to be constant communication and full situational awareness between the captain, his crew and the science teams conducting research.”

The vessel uses a combination of Synectics’ COEX C2000 fixed and PTZ camera stations to monitor on and off-ship activity. Corrosion resistant, and operational at temperatures as low as -45oC, the C2000 camera stations are perfect for monitoring or tracking both fixed and moving objects on deck or at sea.

Randolph continued: “The cameras, chosen specifically for their capacity for high-quality image capture in extreme temperature, visibility and weather conditions, make complete situational awareness possible.

“The bridge benefits from real-time audio and visual information regarding the positions and activities of the deck crew, science team and testing equipment, while also being able to detect ice hazards and guarantee safe navigation. They can also monitor for areas which may be particularly suitable for equipment deployment – clear water – and communicate this to the scientists. In this respect, surveillance benefits safety and study.”

The RSS James Clark Ross winch room is a particular ‘hot spot’ for surveillance. “Without the cameras and monitors keeping winch room operators in the picture, the safety of science teams on deck could be compromised. The operator needs to know what is happening at all times – extreme wire tension, sensitive analytical processes and ice / weather hazards are a challenging mix. Equipment may need to be winched in or stopped at any time for absolute safety”, explained Randolph.

RSS James Clark Ross is a major asset in Antarctic research, operating in some of the most isolated places on Earth. For Synectics, being able to play a part in the important work carried out by BAS is a point of pride.

Mark Withington, Synectics’ Business Development Manager – Marine, said: “Synectics has been developing surveillance solutions for the marine industry, particularly ice-class vessels, for over 25 years. It has been a privilege to develop a system that meets the needs of BAS and its James Clark Ross research ship, based on our extensive experience.”

While RSS James Clark Ross primarily uses surveillance for vessel and personnel safety, port security was also a factor in selecting the right solution. Randolph said: “The majority of the year is spent at sea conducting research but our time in port is equally important – particularly when we are collecting fresh supplies for research teams. We are, in effect, their lifeline. In addition to using our surveillance system to safely navigate into busy ports, its role is also to protect the ship and its contents while we are docked.

“In the past we’ve actually had people try to board our ship at port by approaching on rafts or dinghies to try and evade detection. Complete and continuous surveillance of entry points and surrounding waters during port stops is therefore crucial.”

Synectics will also be showcasing a range of monitoring, control and camera station technologies at SMM Hamburg (stand 212, Hall B8) taking place 9-12 September 2014.
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