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Fintraffic’s Vessel Traffic Services to develop Finland’s VTS’ marine VHF traffic with the help of artificial intelligence

Published on 24.2.2023

Last edited on 27.2.2023

Together with the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services (CML), Fintraffic’s Vessel Traffic Services has started a research project in which Finland’s VTS’ marine VHF traffic will be developed in the upcoming years utilizing automatic speech recognition. In the future, the speech recognition system utilizing artificial intelligence will convert talk radio traffic into text form in real time for Fintraffic’s Vessel Traffic Centres. This will support the correct interpretation of messages, particularly in abnormal situations.

”Fintraffic’s Vessel Traffic Services will be on standby around the clock for the VHF radio system that covers the whole coast of Finland. The VHF talk radio is one of the central tools at our Vessel Traffic Centres. The recent marine VHF traffic-related development work enables connecting machine learning artificial intelligence alongside traditional radio traffic which we are now going to research further in Finland,” says Olli Soininen, Programme Manager at Fintraffic’s Vessel Traffic Services.

”In the research project which is starting now, we will investigate the suitability of utilizing artificial intelligence and automation in Finland’s VTS. We will also build a proto model on a national level and use it to test automatic speech recognition as a support for normal radio traffic, among other things,” continues Mika Nyrhilä, Project Manager at Fintraffic’s Vessel Traffic Services.

Fintraffic’s Vessel Traffic Centre will get to pilot an automatic speech recognition system prototype in VHF radio traffic as early as in 2024. In addition to the prototype model of marine VHF traffic’s speech recognition, the development project will create a foundation for producing one-way VHF radio announcements with speech software, which utilizes real-time situational pictures of marine traffic. The automated transmissions created with the speech software will be tested for the first time in the navigational warnings of Finland’s national coastal radio station Turku Radio in 2024.

Artificial intelligence to enable correct interpretation of marine VHF traffic even in challenging circumstances

A prototype model optimized for the needs of Finland’s VTS will be built during the marine VHF traffic research project. The research project will combine the previous speech recognition experience of the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services (CML) and Fintraffic’s competence relating to the operations and special qualities of marine VHF traffic.

”There are multiple things typical to maritime communication, which make understanding and receiving messages more difficult. Oftentimes, there is engine noise drowning out speech, and crews are made up of individuals from various countries with their own accents and dialects. These are all issues that seed to be solved in order to improve maritime communication,” says Scientific Researcher Maximilian Reimann, at Fraunhofer CML. 

In marine traffic, the marine VHF communication system has been used in the communication between vessels and ports for decades. With the marine VHF device, ships can create a direct radio connection with a coastal station or another vessel as well as contact emergency services. The significance of the system for the safety of the vessel is so enormous that it is mandatory in all larger marine vessels. However, the quality of the communication through marine VHF is affected by several factors. The distance between parties, antenna solutions and their condition and different meteorogical conditions, among other things, can affect the clarity