When a large-scale disaster causes death and destruction, it becomes a calamity beyond human endurance. This is what happened when hundreds of fishermen from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala died, and many went missing after Cyclone Ockhi ravaged the Arabian Sea coast on 29 November, 2017. Ockhi has been a tragedy of massive proportions, not only for local fishing families, but also because it exposed the deficient Indian disaster management system.
The deep sea fishermen had no satellite phones with them. Though mobile network connectivity was available up to 22 km, most of the fishermen ventured much beyond that distance. Understandably, their small fibre boats couldn’t carry as much communication equipment as a big trawling boat would carry.
The two major failures in mitigating this disaster were: the cyclone warning was delayed; the warning, when it came, was ineffective because it could not be conveyed to thousands of fisher folk who were already out at sea due to lack of network coverage.
This is a persistent problem along the coastline. Fishermen face communication challenges, compromising their safety and that of their boats. Although all boats are fixed with an AIS system, yet emergency communications get disturbed due to many switching them off as they venture beyond permissible distances, and an overload on broadcasting channels, resulting in no or poor connectivity.
VNL’s marine communication system is a unified solution that addresses emergency communication requirements for safety and security initiatives near the coast.
Marine communication network solution
VNL’s specially developed technology can provide GSM coverage up to 70KM inside the sea from the cost, where 80% of fishing activity occurs, allowing voice and data communication and services between mobile phone users and other devices.
This solution aims at extending the range of telecommunications system to its technical maximum; using extended cell features. It also includes a full implementation of the networks’ positioning systems, providing accurate location of callers in distress as well as the implementation of a many-to-many communication technology to be used during rescue mission. The universal gateway provides an integration of radios/walkie-talkies, established mobile network and landline phones, as required.
VNL’s marine communication system can be used for emergency communication from the lighthouse or any other high-rise building or natural structure near the coast. The solution is solar powered in case of limited or no access to electricity. Use of standard mobile phone and telecom services from operators like BSNL makes this system cost effective.