Understanding the LRIT System Architecture & the Flow of Data

by | Last updated May 9, 2024 | Equipment, Navigation | 0 comments

The LRIT system architecture might seem like technical jargon for seafarers, but its basic knowledge offers valuable benefits.

While fully automatic on board, the LRIT, or Long-range Identification and Tracking system, has a massive infrastructure behind it.

Here, we will focus more on the role of the Contracting Governments and the function of different data centers within the architecture.

Key Takeaways

  • The massive infrastructure behind the LRIT makes it stand out from the ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS).
  • Four types of LRIT data centers exist: national, regional, cooperative, and international.
  • The Data Distribution Plan manages the flow of LRIT data collected from ships and distributed to authorized users.

LRIT Components

To recap my previous article explaining Long-Range Identification and Tracking, here are the main parts that make up the system.

1. Shipborne LRIT equipment

2. Communication Service Provider

3. Application Service Provider

4. Data Center

5. Data Distribution Plan

6. International Data Exchange

Knowing these is important when we discuss the architecture that runs the LRIT.

Different components of the LRIT system from ships to communication service providers and data centers.

Explaining the LRIT system architecture

The system architecture of LRIT is represented below using the image.

That image was actually made by the International Maritime Organization under Resolution MSC C.263(84)/REV.1, adopted in November 2022.

LRIT System Architecture featuring the flow of data transmissions.

However, it’s quite lacking since the ship data, which is the source, seems out of the picture.

Hence, I combined the two images above to make it complete.

The LRIT system architecture combined with the components.
The flow of ship’s LRIT data through various infrastructure.

Now, let’s start explaining them one by one. Please refer back to the image here as we go along with the explanation.

To start with, let’s go over the Contracting Governments.

Contracting Government

Contracting Government (CG) refers to the sovereign state that agrees to be bound by a specific international maritime regulation, convention, or treaty.

The role of the Contracting Government is to select the type of data center and the Application Service Provider (ASP).

ASPs provide a communication protocol interface between the Communication Service Provider (CSP) and Data Centers.

Ships flying under their flags must transmit their LRIT information to the Data Center chosen by the CG.

Under the Contracting Government are these entities:

  • Flag State
  • Port State
  • Coastal State, and
  • SAR services

These entities have the “authority” to request LRIT User Data from the International LRIT Data Exchange (IDE).

LRIT Data Centers or Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)

As you can see in the image, there are four different kinds of LRIT Data Centers or VMS.

The information received from the satellite is sent to their designated data centers, which their CG nominates.

This differs significantly from other ship tracking tools like the Automatic Identification System (AIS).

In the case of the LRIT, each Contracting Government is grouped into four depending on the type of Data Centers they use.

1. National LRIT Data Centers

Some countries have their dedicated data center to which their ship’s LRIT information is sent.

Examples of countries having their own data centers are the following:

  • The United States of America
  • India
  • Nigeria
  • Singapore
  • Philippines, etc.

2. Regional LRIT Data Centers

Some countries may establish a data center shared by Contracting Governments of a specific geographical region.

Regional Data Centers serve the LRIT needs of multiple countries or states within a defined area.

3. Cooperative LRIT Data Centers

Cooperative Data Centers are similar to Regional LRIT Data Centers except that the member states are not exclusive to a particular geographical area.

These types of data centers are established through agreements between Contracting Governments to jointly operate a single Data Center serving their respective national needs.

The European Union Cooperative Data Center (EU LRIT CDC) is an example of a cooperative LRIT data center.

4. International LRIT Data Center

Countries not participating under any of the three data centers above should transmit their LRIT information to an International LRIT Data Center.

International organizations or entities approved by the IMO run this type of data center.

International LRIT Data Exchange 

The International LRIT Data Exchange (IDE) facilitates the exchange of LRIT information between LRIT Data Centers on an international level.

This exchange ensures seamless communication and data sharing among different LRIT Data Centers. By using a standardized XML Schema, it enables the efficient global tracking and identification of ships.

A sample of XML Schema for Ship Position Report.
Ship Position Report in an XML Schema format.

Why is a Central Data Exchange Crucial Despite Multiple Data Centers?

This centralized architecture is necessary for several reasons:

1. Data Standardization – Ships transmit LRIT data in different formats and protocols depending on the equipment’s model and national regulations. The IDE converts them into uniform formats for efficient data exchange.

2. Improved Efficiency – Without the IDE, countries would need to contact each data center for information on specific ships individually. IDE provides a central access point and streamlines this process.

3. Global Coverage – The IDE provides global coverage instead of different data centers handling only a portion of the ships’ LRIT data.

LRIT Data Distribution Plan

The LRIT Data Distribution Plan serves as a framework for managing the flow of LRIT data and ensuring its secure and efficient distribution.

It contains rules, procedures, and protocols that define how LRIT data collected from ships is distributed to authorized users.

That’s the reason why the DDP is connected to the data centers and the international data exchange.

While both can be used for ship tracking and monitoring, AIS and LRIT have many differences.

The underlying system architecture behind the LRIT is more complex but robust.

Thus, for maritime security, the LRIT offers a comprehensive framework for global vessel tracking and identification.

May the winds be in your favor.



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