Ferry Safety and Technology Conference to Discuss ?Big Picture?


By The Maritime Executive 03-04-2018 06:06:17

Electrification of ferries, new applications of AIS data, 3D printing for weather route monitoring, performance monitoring telematics are among the topics being discussed at this year’s Ferry Safety and Technology conference to be held on March 21 to 23, in downtown New York.

“In keeping with the tradition of the conference, big-picture far-reaching issues that extend beyond the technologies themselves, are discussed,” said Dr Roberta Weisbrod, Executive Director of the World Ferry Safety Association. “This big picture comes from a synthesis of issues that we’ve been able to provide each year at the WFSA conference.” 


Weisbrod says: “The interest in electric ferries is enormous, and there are many dimensions to the story. We look forward to hearing about coming trends: vendors are saying that ferries can go faster, and farther, without recharging, compared to the past.

“There is now a critical mass of electric ferries around the world, so there is enough experience that battery-powered vessels show operational costs that are a fraction of liquid-fuel based ferries. The new battery technology allows for longer ranges as well. Leaders in the field will showcase what they do and share information in a forum on March 23: ABB, All American Marine, Arcadia Alliance, BMT, Cavotec, Elliot Bay Design Group, HMS Consulting, OSK, Red and White Lines and Spear Power Systems.”

Electrification initiatives are being launched in Asia, Europe, and North America. More growth is expected given the favorable operating economics and policy pushes (for example the City Council in New York City), at a time of a strong ferry market. Operators, designers, builders, component and service providers, and government overseers will talk about successes and overcoming obstacles as electrification advances.


Though AIS technology is not new, its far-reaching use has not fully penetrated the ferry sector. In the developed world, data from AIS can be mined and applied to a plethora of management and planning tasks, well beyond the original purpose of preventing accidents. Multiple usable examples will be discussed, including the possibility of the automatic transmission of weather information to and from ferries based on their location and course.

David Hewson of Vesseltracker.com will present on the broad utility that AIS has become when combined with ability to mine vast amounts of digital data – for day-to-day management, planning and even SAR tracking – uses far-beyond the original collision avoidance purposes. His presentation will also speak to the digital divide – findings that developing nations with an unfortunate safety record lack AIS capability on ferries.

Weisbrod comments: “Sadly, our research shows that there is a correlation between ferry fatalities and the lack of AIS.” Presenters at the conference will discuss how to facilitate mandates for AIS for ferries in developing nations, where ferries are needed for transport.”

Hull Materials 

John Waterhouse, from Elliot Bay Design Group, will offer an in depth perspective on aluminum hulls and discuss sources of pitting. Martin Grimnes (from Arcadia-Alliance, a partnership between Front Street Shipyard, Belfast Maine, and Brodrene AA Norway) will talk about composite hull ferries; his company outbid Chinese rivals for a Hong Kong ferry – despite shipment from Norway.

Floating landings are proliferating in tandem with the expansion of ferry service in North America, Asia and Africa – but what about their maintenance. Dominic DeSantis of McLaren Engineering Group, a leader in the field of landing design and construction, will discuss issues and options. 

Nurur Rahman, an internationally know maritime safety expert, will moderate this session.

Crowd Sourced Weather Information

Crowd sourced weather information is needed, especially on the water, to supplement the ever more
sophisticated satellites, says Weisbrod. Given that over 50 percent of fatal ferry accidents are caused by hazardous weather, crowd-sourced information allows ferry operators in the area to know the hyper-local real-time weather – the line of squalls, and thunderstorms, downspouts and hazardous waves. 

Catherine Lawson, from AVAIL will update on the holy grail of affordable and readily repairable 3D printed weather monitors. Could 3D printing be used to reduce the cost of AIS transponders, thereby allowing developing nations to afford them.

Commander William Grossman, from USCG Sector NY will moderate.


How technology is used to enhance training thereby improving competence and reducing human error is the subject of a survey conducted by World Maritime University, New Wave Media and Marine Learning Systems (MLS). Murray Goldberg, from MLS, will report on the status of the first annual survey. Rich Paine of Hornblower will discuss how simulators help mariners traverse increasingly congested New York Harbor with its shifting underwater obstacles. 

Captain James DeSimone, Staten Island ferry will moderate.

Awards Presentation

The Student Awardees of the 5th International Design Competition for a Safe Affordable Ferry will present their designs in conjunction with the awards presentation. This year’s challenge was to design a ferry for traversing the narrow and congested waters of Singapore Strait between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Informal Networking Opportunities

Information exchange in informal settings is valued, and facilitated over food and drink – at the welcoming evening reception March 21, two breakfasts and two lunches, as well as the grand evening reception March 22.

Weisbrod says: "Great speakers, emerging issues, announcement of new partnership initiatives and high quality networking opportunities - we are looking forward to welcoming colleagues old and new."

Now in its 4th year, the conference has grown in scope and number of attendees. The program is available here: https://ferrysafetyconference.squarespace.com/program/.

Registration is available here: http://ferrysafetyconference.squarespace.com/

For further information, contact Dr. Roberta Weisbrod ferrysafety@gmail.com, or +1 917 476 0887

The products and services herein described in this press release are not endorsed by The Maritime Executive.