So the gCaptain team has been exceptionally busy in the last few weeks and we have the Cosco Busan partially to thank. In addition to the server traffic and time spent researching the incident we were motivated by the events to embark on some new projects. You already now the good news, the successful launch of a new maritime podcast! Unfortunately, however, we also had a time consuming failure.
A little history…. Shortly after the ship allided with San Francisco’s Bay Bridge we pointed you to the amazing website BoatingSF.com. Run by Michael Slater, a former Adobe Engineer, the site uses AIS vessel tracking data taken from VHF radio antennas Michael has erected near the bay and uses this to plot ships to a live interactive map embedded on his site (LINK). The post that day, however, displayed recorded data showing the track of the Cosco Busan during her short voyage. The display was impressive and attracted a considerable amount of attention.
At this point of the story we had just finished reading an amazing article written for Geo: Magazine by John Astad, our friend from Vesseltrax. The subject of the article was Shore-Side Maritime Applications of Google Earth and discussed his ability to visualize 3d images of ships running the Houston Ship Channel. Even cooler was the ability to fly around a vessel as she moved about the bay… in real time! (LINK) So I contacted Michael and asked if he would send the data file to John for 3d conversion!
The stars seemed to be aligning until we discovered a problem (read about it here) that resulted in John not being able to convert the data for use in his program. Discouraged? Yes but in stepped a gCaptain reader who we can’t thank enough. He transposed the timestamps from regional AIS beacons and helped us create a ShipPlotter version (Disclaimer here and ShipPlotter results here) of the events. Not quite accurate but close enough for our next team to start work…
Jakota “is engaged in the development and sale of solutions aimed at the commercial sector and public services, as well as the field of research and science. We supply solutions for tracking, fleet management, positioning and security- and alarm systems.” Translated; they make the best 3d ship graphing websites on the planet. They also provide amazing tools for tracking fleets of ships that are visually stunning, effective and well thought out.
You ask, how did we find Jakota? We asked our friends in silicon valley to search for a company that provides AIS vessel tracking systems that first, have visually attractive solutions, second use the latest tools of web 2.0. The overwhelming response was “Check out Digital-Seas.com“.
Fast forward through the time changes, international calling codes and German accents… we finally got in touch with Lars Krueger, one of the nicest and most professional person we have met. Lars took a programmer off his job to work on our project full time… the results were stunning but the harder we work the more faulty data we found.
The bottom line… we worked hard, had fun, met some amazing people and built relationships for the future. The final result is not 100% accurate and was compressed to meat BoatingSF’s needs but still looks amazing (you should see the original!!) We also started on a new project, global AIS and vessel tracking… but that’s for another post. In the meantime, if your a marine superintendent Lars is a person you need to know. If you’re a mariner interested in tracking ships so you don’t have to spend days in sitting in the union hall… Digital-Seas is the website you will know.
Many thanks to all who helped and stay tuned for more on the amazing people and products we met while working on this project. For a preview visit these amazing sites;
- EarthNC – Digital Chart Overlays for Google Earth!
- ActiveCaptain – Port Information via Google Maps!
- Panbo – Marine Electronics Blog!
- Kurt’s Weblog – AIS Master GURU!
- Navagear -Gear and Gadets for Boaters!
- Vesseltrax – Ship positions on google maps!
- UUPlus – Low Bandwidth Solutions for Boats.
Enough discussion… to see the Cosco Busan’s Track CLICK HERE
Note: The source of our problem was the USCG’s reluctance to release the official AIS data files. If you wish to see the amazing visualizations of Digital Seas… in full size… with accurate data… call your congressman and ask for the file to be released to the public.