Real-Time Correlation of Cable Fault to Vessel Location and the Benefit to Cable System Operators [SubOptic 2016]

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This paper was submitted by Darwin Evans and Richard Norris of Ciena along with Andy Palmer-Felgate of Verizon for SubOptic 2016. Vessel activity in shallow waters is a real concern for submarine cable operators because of the potential for damage to cables from fishing and anchoring. Cable faults caused by vessels have an estimated direct cost of US$50 million per year, in addition to the possible impact to global communications, which can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Detailed knowledge of the physical location of submarine cables combined with real-time knowledge of vessel location in relation to those cables, can help to prevent damage and so minimise costs as well as increasing end-user satisfaction by avoiding outages. In the event of a cable fault occurring, knowing vessel locations at the time of the fault can also help determine possible causes and provide detailed information on any vessel(s) that may be responsible. In addition, with an improved understanding of the threats vessels can cause, cable owners can undertake targeted cable awareness programmes. This paper outlines a wetplant-vendor-agnostic method using standard REST API programmable interfaces and SDN orchestration, to correlate vessel location and cable geographic location data with relevant fault data available from SLTE supervision, COTDR and PFE. This solution can be applied to any cable network to proactively reduce operations costs, increase uptime by preventing avoidable breaks and reduce downtime through automated collection of the key inputs the responsible marine operators require before repair activities occur.
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  • 1. Emerging Subsea Networks Copyright © SubOptic2016 Page 1 of 5 REAL-TIME CORRELATION OF CABLE FAULT TO VESSEL LOCATION AND THE BENEFIT TO CABLE SYSTEM OPERATORS Darwin Evans (Ciena), Richard Norris (Ciena), Andy Palmer-Felgate (Verizon) daevans@ciena.com Ciena, 3500 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K2H 8E9 Canada. Abstract: Vessel activity in shallow waters is a real concern for submarine cable operators because of the potential for damage to cables from fishing and anchoring. Cable faults caused by vessels have an estimated direct cost of US$50 million per year, in addition to the possible impact to global communications, which can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Detailed knowledge of the physical location of submarine cables combined with real-time knowledge of vessel location in relation to those cables, can help to prevent damage and so minimise costs as well as increasing end-user satisfaction by avoiding outages. In the event of a cable fault occurring, knowing vessel locations at the time of the fault can also help determine possible causes and provide detailed information on any vessel(s) that may be responsible. In addition, with an improved understanding of the threats vessels can cause, cable owners can undertake targeted cable awareness programmes. This paper outlines a wetplant-vendor-agnostic method using standard REST API programmable interfaces and SDN orchestration, to correlate vessel location and cable geographic location data with relevant fault data available from SLTE supervision, COTDR and PFE. This solution can be applied to any cable network to proactively reduce operations costs, increase uptime by preventing avoidable breaks and reduce downtime through automated collection of the key inputs the responsible marine operators require before repair activities occur. 1. Current Mode of Operation Globally there are more than 160 submarine cable faults per year. However, at present, it is unusual for cable owners to attempt to locate the vessel that may have caused the fault due to limitations in fault reporting from the various relevant Network Management Systems (NMS) and accessibility/availability of vessel Automatic Identification System (AIS) data. The approximate cost of each repair is $300,000. Therefore, the total cost to the submarine cable industry is in the region of $50M per annum. Typically three sets of experts are required to correlate a wetplant fault with a particular vessel’s activity. On detection of a fault, a set of network monitoring experts, normally located at the Network Operations Centre (NOC), translate system alarms to a potential wetplant fault. To confirm the existence of the fault and distance from a landing station, the NOC personnel are required to operate a line monitoring system such as a Coherent Optical Time- Domain Reflectometer (COTDR), either remotely when available or via an on-site activity. To relate a fault position determined by the COTDR with the GPS coordinates of vessels near the cable route, it is necessary to translate the distance from the cable station to the fault into a latitude and longitude. This is a complex task most frequently carried out by the cable repair ship operator rather than the network operator. Finally, a third
  • 2. Emerging Subsea Networks Copyright © SubOptic2016 Page 2 of 5 set of experts are required to take the GPS coordinates determined from the investigation and combine them with the fault timing data from the NOC to determine if a vessel can be identified. Having access to AIS data that can be reviewed both in real-time and historically using a ‘play-back’ application is essential, given that instantaneous fault localisation is not always possible [1]. The need to hand-off data between different experts results in the possibility of a long duration between fault detection and vessel identification. For these reasons it is not routine for vessels that damage cables to be identified and a very small percentage of repair costs are reclaimed despite cables having legal protection from negligent or wilful damage. More attention would be paid to the presence of cables on the seabed if mariners were less complacent about their actions. The situation will only change if cable owners file more claims. 2. Advances in SLTE Technology The latest generation of Submarine Line Terminal Equipment (SLTE) includes many advanced features that monitor the health and performance of the whole cable system, including the submerged plant. The advent of coherent modems allows the SLTE to gather a rich set of data for every active channel passing over the cable. Reconfigurable Optical Add Drop Multiplexer (ROADM)-based SLTEs include integrated Optical Spectrum Analyser (OSA) functionality that adds more information about the total performance of the system. In addition, the embedded SLTE wet-plant Line Monitoring Equipment (LME) capabilities gather key data for undersea repeaters, branching units and equalisers. Finally, passive line monitoring solutions, such as COTDR functionality within the SLTE, are able to monitor the health of the fibre itself. To further increase the scope of the cable system monitoring, interfaces to the Power Feed Equipment (PFE) can be used to monitor the voltage levels at each Cable Landing Station (CLS). Traditionally, the vendor of each piece of equipment (SLTE, PFE, COTDR) would be responsible for providing a system to monitor the information generated. The functionality and data would reside in disparate systems associated with each piece of equipment. However, the use of REST APIs (Representational State Transfer Application Programing Interfaces) combined with Software Defined Network (SDN) controllers provide equipment vendor agonistic methods of extracting the data generated by the equipment, along with non- traditional data available via the REST APIs. The SDN controller computing platform provides the ability to create value added applications (‘apps’) that take advantage of the available rich data sets. Moreover, the ability to create and deploy system-specific apps can provide many benefits to the cable system operators. 3. Automated Fault to Vessel Correlation Solution Given the range of advanced features available within the latest SLTEs and the ability to make available all the data via REST APIs, an app can be created to automate the majority of steps defined in Section 1 of this paper. The target of the automation is to significantly improve the fault diagnosis time and provide the cable system operator with valuable information required to rectify the fault and identify the likely cause.
  • 3. Emerging Subsea Networks Copyright © SubOptic2016 Page 3 of 5 When a fault occurs on a cable system, the end terminal equipment detects the impact to the system performance, either in terms of complete loss of traffic on channels using the cable system or an increase in per channel bit error rate, normally reported in terms of Q. The faults are reported via relevant alarms on the SLTE interpreted by the app resident on the SDN controller. The SDN controller app can then use the embedded advanced functions of the SLTE to provide more information on the fault type. If the fault is deemed to be traffic- affecting, the SDN controller app can automatically trigger the wet-plant monitoring and COTDR features to determine the exact fault location in terms of distance from the CLS. The resulting kilometre (km) point can then be cross referenced against a database residing on the SDN controller containing the cable system Route Position List (RPL). This will allow the GPS coordinates of the fault to be determined, as shown in Figure 1. For shunt faults where there is no traffic interruption, the interface to the PFE can be used by the SDN controller to determine the current voltages at each CLS. The voltages can then be cross referenced against previously recorded voltages and the cable RPL to again determine the GPS coordinates of the fault. The final stage of the vessel location app is to identify the ship determined to be in the vicinity of the cable fault location at the time of the fault. There are a number of commercial vessel tracking applications that provide global coverage based on the AIS transponder fitted to vessels [2]. An example of such as service is shown in Figure 2 below. A web-based feed can be purchased that interfaces via a REST API with the fault detection app on the SDN controller. This data will then allow the app to perform the fault to vessel correlation. The vessel details containing the International Maritime Organization (IMO) number will be recorded to allow identification. An example of the vessel details are shown in Figure 3 below. Figure 1: Fault Coordinates
  • 4. Emerging Subsea Networks Copyright © SubOptic2016 Page 4 of 5 Figure 2: Vessel Location Service Figure 3: Vessel Details Additional information can be included in the app that provides benefit to the cable system operator. Maritime boundaries (shown in Figure 4) could be defined in the system to allow the operator to identify any sovereign territory where a fault occurs. This information would be useful when determining the maintenance company to engage and repair permits required. Figure 4: Maritime Boundaries To provide additional automation in triggering the request to repair the cable fault, the information gathered by the app can be formatted and entered into a call-out procedure document that can be automatically forwarded to the marine maintenance company responsible for fixing the fault. Furthermore, a copy of the fault location, along with the ship identified as in the vicinity of the cable at the time of the fault, could be prepared for presentation to the legal entity for the identified vessel in an effort to help recover repair and consequential costs. 4. Operational Benefits The concepts described herein would facilitate all cable operators to rapidly identify a fault location and correlate it with the vessel most likely to have caused it. The use of REST APIs allows for a method of vendor agnostic data collection from the numerous equipment platforms A"Vessel x Flag:'unknown Type:'Oil'Tanker Size:'150m'x'35m Draught:'8m Call'Sign: AB1 IMO: 987654 MMSI: 012345678 Received:'2'min'ago Status:'At'Anchor Destination:'Unknown Speed/Course:'0.0kn'/'43 ETA:'unknown
  • 5. Emerging Subsea Networks Copyright © SubOptic2016 Page 5 of 5 that make up the transport equipment, optical supervisory systems, electoral plant monitoring systems as well as non- traditional inputs, such as website information, to develop a rich set of data for analysis. The use of a SDN controller provides the data collection and analytics platform where value added apps can be developed and run on the rich data sets captured. The resulting applications can use the disparate inputs to analyse a fault, determine the distance of the fault from a landing site, translate to GPS coordinates and compare to AIS data to identify the potential offending vessel. The SDN controller would be under the management of the NOC staff, reducing the number of experts required to manage and analyse the data that results from a fault in the wetplant, which leads to a great reduction in the time to analyse and act upon the data presented from the equipment. The reduction in time and manpower required to perform the steps identified in this paper will have a significant impact on the efficiency of the cable owner’s operational functions. The rapid automation also will allow the marine maintenance companies to be notified earlier, which could help reduce the overall time taken to rectify the fault. Finally, the accurate information the application gathers will provide suitable material for the cable operator’s legal department to use when seeking to claim damages from the vessel owner. 5. Conclusions This paper has described how the use of a SDN system enabled with vendor agnostic REST API data collection interfaces can be applied to any cable network. It can automate the analysis of data from a wetplant and significantly simplify the process of determining the possible cause of a cable fault while providing detailed information on any vessel that may be responsible. The ability to quickly and clearly identify the vessel at fault can result in more successful claims for repair costs. An indirect consequence is the shipping industry as a whole is likely to pay far more regard in the future to the existence of submarine cables in an effort to avoid the financial consequences of damaging them. This in turn has the potential to decrease the direct cost to the submarine cable industry for repairs as fewer faults occur. 6. REFERENCES [1] J Chen, Y Zhao, A Realtime Fault Diagnosis and Locationg Method Used in Submarine Cable Systems, SubOptic 2013 [2] M Cuddington, T Taylor, Protecting Subsea Assets Using AIS, SubOtpic 2013 [3] Figure 1 background courtesy of TeleGeography. [4] Figure 2 courtesy of MarineTraffic.
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