A UK-first collaboration is set to use satellites to monitor coastal changes in a bid to create safer shipping navigation channels.
The project will see Peel Ports, the UK’s second largest port operator, partner with the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and Channel Coastal Observatory (CCO) to employ satellite surveillance and assess where maintenance is needed over a six-month period.
Funded by UK Space Agency Small Business Research (SBRI), the NOC will use its patented coastal mapping technology to support Peel Ports in building targeted dredging operations across the Mersey and Medway estuaries.
Offering greater insight into changes to the marine environments around two of the UK’s most important waterways, Peel Ports will use the data to ensure safer access to the Port of Liverpool and Port of Medway for arriving ships.
Traditionally, marine observation and maintenance is carried out using environmental surveys and annual dredging programmes, which come at high cost and provide limited data.
However, using the coastal mapping capabilities developed by the NOC’s Dr Paul Bell and Clive Neil, Peel Ports will be more informed with accessible data which maps marine features, including challenging intertidal areas that see the most changes.
As a result, Peel Ports will be able to identify issues and take action quicker and more effectively than before.
Gary Doyle, Group Harbour Master at Peel Ports Group, said: “Like any statutory harbour authority, we have a duty to provide accurate timely navigational information . Understanding the dynamics across our sites, and publishing accurate information, is vitally important to us and all those who rely on the waterways under our responsibility.
“We are constantly evaluating new technologies and this project will provide information on adding an additional flexible asset to our inventory. It will also allow us to assess what impact it will have in support of our marine decarbonisation plan. .”
Christine Sams, Head of Research Engagement, NOC: “This collaboration is something that has never been done in the UK before and we are excited to provide valuable insight into the areas in which Peel Ports operates in.
“Not only will it give them a comprehensive overview of the Mersey and Medway estuaries, but it will also support Peel Ports to develop proactive dredging and maintenance strategies which will deliver a safer shipping environment for everyone.”
Charlie Thompson, Director, CCO: said: “Using satellites is an evolution on traditional survey methods with the potential to bring unparalleled data that can inform the actions required when reviewing coastal maintenance of challenging intertidal areas.
“We’re looking forward to supporting Peel Ports and the NOC to deliver this project.”
The SBRI’s funding for the project came from its Unlocking Space for Business initiative, which offers applicants a share of £2m to combine terrestrial technologies with satellite data for transport, logistics, and financial services.