IFCA Testing Boat Tracking Technology

Scilly’s Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority is road-testing boat tracking technology, which the Government wants boat owners to use.

A vessel monitoring system, devised by a company called Succorfish, will use mobile phone technology to track boat movements for safety and to keep tabs on people fishing where they shouldn’t be.

It will only apply to vessels over 12m in length, and that means all Scilly boats are excluded, but Maritime Officer Steve Watt said they’re testing the technology here as a trial. He said at some point in the future, it could become mandatory for the smaller boats too.

Steve says they’ve fitted the VMS unit, which was supplied free-of-charge, to the wheelhouse of the St Agnes boat Pioneer, owned by Kitt Legg.

The technology lets the IFCA track vessels and can sound an alarm if they enter sensitive areas, such as Marine Conservation Zones. Steve added that, although the boat owner can access their own tracking data, which could be useful to plot productive fishing areas, other fishermen will not be able to see that.

But there has been a hiccup with the trial. Steve says after a few weeks of using the system they thought it odd that the vessel locator appeared not to be tracking the boat. He said after checking all the wiring and transmitters, they finally contacted the makers.

It turns out that they sent the wrong box and the system on the local boat was meant to track a lorry in a fleet owned by a Saudi delivery firm.

Steve said he wonders whether a Saudi truck owner is now wondering why one of his lorries is appearing off the Bishop Rock lighthouse!

A replacement device has been sent, as well as a second, free one to say sorry for the error and they’ll be looking for a second boat to trial the technology.