It may be the only tri-coloured navigational light, where green doesn’t mean go and red doesn’t mean stop.
The brand new Kaien Island Sector Light, purchased and installed by the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA), the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and BC Coast Pilots (BCCP) and monitored by CCG, will boost navigational safety for ships arriving into and departing from the port’s inner harbour.
The $500,000 light displays red, green and white colours to container vessels as large as 350m long as they reduce speed from approximately 18 knots down to 12, turning by the Kinihan Islands north to the deep water channel.
“You’re on the navigation track and you want to get lined up from that deepwater channel. If you’re starboard of the track (or to the right), the light will be red because it aligns with the red starboard-hand buoys on the starboard side of the channel. And you’ve got a green light, or black buoys on the port (left) side of the channel,” said PRPA harbour master and vice president of operations Capt. Gary Paulson last week.
“A white light guarantees that you’re on track … If it turns red, the pilot knows immediately he’s starboard of track and he has to bring the ship back to port. If it turns green, he knows he’s too port of track and he’s got to come over to the right a bit.”
The solar-powered light also blinks all three colours, signalling the wayward direction the vessel may be taking.
It’s a feature that was requested by popular demand for vessel pilots navigating Prince Rupert, who before would have to use the buoys as indicators of their position as well as the ship’s radar to make sure they’re lined up properly.
“The pilots wanted a leading light or a leading mark … It just gives them that extra layer of comfort so when they make that turn they can see the light south of the Kinihans. It just makes it easier,” said Paulson.
The reaction has already been positive.
“We just heard from our deputy master who was in Vancouver giving a presentation on all the initiatives we’re doing up here and the vice president of the BC Coast Pilots came up to him and showed him a text he got from one of the pilots that used it, who had glowing remarks, saying it’s awesome,” said the harbour master.
In addition to the sector light, the Port is installing shore-based radar antennae on three elevated sites – on top of Prince Rupert Grain, Mount Hays and Dundas Island.
“Prince Rupert Grain is giving us permission to put this antenna on top of their building because the line of sight there is so good – it covers the approach to the harbour and so we value that and couldn’t have done it without them,” Paulson said.
The radar antennae will be installed in April or May and operational by July.
With increased traffic at the Port of Prince Rupert and larger ships coming every month, the light is one such feature that the PRPA is implementing to maintain a culture of safety in the harbour.
“I don’t want to understate [the preparedness measures], but it’s been kind of routine. We know when the ships are going to increase in size and so the pilots do specialized training in simulators even before they see these ships come here … so the pilots are ready to go and they’re comfortable with that size of ship and then they have the nav-aids,” said Paulson.
“We’ve also increased our tug capacity – Saam Smit – the tug company here that provides towage for the ships have more powerful tugs to handle those ships, but the basic principles of navigation – following the track, keeping the ships safe – those principles don’t change no matter what size ship you have,” he said.