14.1 Shipboard Equipment
14.2 VMS Base Station
14.3 Telecommunications Access
It is an unpleasant fact of life that in developing countries, where VMS could offer fisheries managers a tool of considerable value, the economic and telecommunications infrastructure make its implementation difficult.
The difficulty, in fact, boils down to three specific issues: assuring that the necessary hardware is installed and operational aboard each vessel; obtaining a base station capable of receiving, storing and manipulating the received data; and gaining access to telecommunications of sufficient performance to be able to receive the data and command and interrogate the VLDs. What is more, it is essential that these elements be supplied at a cost level that is acceptable in the developing world.
One would hope that a movement toward normalization of VLDs would be the key step in solving the first problem. Currently, it is difficult, from the perspective of a developing country, to judge the quality or performance of a ships VLD. In a context where there is broad agreement upon the norms that VLDs should meet, officials in the developing countries need only verify that the shipboard equipment corresponds to one of those models certified as meeting the standards.
The question of cost of the VLD is not an issue. The most difficult management task facing developing countries is that of monitoring foreign vessels that fish in their waters under license. Access to the fishing grounds of the developing world is such a precious commodity that in the vast majority of cases it is a simple matter to require fitting of a certified VLD as a condition of that access.
Fisheries management authorities in developed countries are planning and implementing base stations offering increasingly high performance for VMS purposes, including software modules that provide data manipulation facilities that verge on an artificial intelligence capability for determining which vessels under monitoring are most likely operating illegally. This is a measure of just how seriously those countries take the potential of VMS in managing their fisheries, but it does not mean that VMS requires this level of sophistication to be a valuable fisheries management tool.
Indeed, a simple PC with a program capable of entering vessel position data in data base, displaying that data on a chart of the waters under management, and manipulating the data in terms of the parameters entered (i.e. position and time as a minimum with optional course and speed), will meet the reasonable needs of most developing countries. Such equipment and software is currently available for less than $US 5000, a moderate amount in the context of any viable fisheries management program.
By far the greatest of the problems facing developing countries is an extension of their own telecommunications networks and the access that they give to the international services. Until recently this has meant that data reception and VLD control almost always had to be carried out over dedicated satellite links. It is no surprise that this required a high initial level of investment - often unacceptably high - and well as significant continuing communications costs.
Developing countries are quickly getting access to the Internet and this will be a great asset. A quick, informal survey shows that upwards of two-thirds of African countries already have Internet access from their capital cities. A number of international organizations are, in addition, executing programs to extend this access. The American non-governmental organization AID, for example, is in the process of implementing a network of 28 V-Sat (fixed point satellite communications) hubs specifically to increase Internet availability in Africa.
A VMS system based on Internet connections will not provide the same performance as one using direct, duplex links. Nonetheless, delivery times over Internet are often accomplished in a matter of minutes, and very frequently within tolerance that would make VMS data received a valuable asset in fisheries management.
It is also worth noting that, given its current world wide success, one can expect that the performance of the Internet will only improve with time. Furthermore this improvement will take place in parallel with the development of the local and international telecommunications available in developing countries. The message is that VMS is a tool that can be put to immediate and practical use in developing countries fisheries management operations.