Sensors on Temperate Merchant Vessels


Scientists from Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria have engaged with the IMOS ships of opportunity facility to develop and install an autonomous sampling equipment on Spirit of Tasmania 1. With its peerless unbroken daily sailing record this vessel provides a unique platform to routinely sample a high repeat record of marine conditions in Bass Strait that up until now have been constrained by weather from satellite measurements or research vessel obligations.

The system has been highly useful already, having been applied to monitoring of channel dredging and to calibrate complicated numerical models of Port Phillip Bay. The ship path includes a north-south transect through the inner bay and runs across the Sands region which is the dominant zone of mixing and flushing. It then crosses Bass Strait, supplying unprecedented open water information.

The system has the capacity to integrate additional sensor equipment, providing a test bed to pilot research techniques that may one day become routine across many SOOPs. The facility is sustained through partnership with research projects (University of Tasmania and Melbourne University), ship operators (TT Line) and government (CSIRO).

Instrumentation and Data

The configuration of the marine monitoring system was modelled on a simple robust design used by the University of British Columbia's Earth and Ocean Science Department on BC Ferries networks between 2002 and 2006.

It is a compact sensor pack (400mmx 150mm x 200mm) that can be mounted horizontally or vertically in a location convenient to the vessel operator. The system includes a Seabird SBE45 thermo-salinograph (TSG), a Wetlabs combination fluorometer turbidity sensor (FLNTU) to measure temperature, salinity, turbidity and chlorophyll across Bass Strait. 

The observing platform became operational in September 2008 and provides an unbroken record, except when the vessel is taken offline for a 3 week refit every 12–18 months. 

Useful links


Dr Randall Lee


International programs: 

Two BC Ferries were instrumented with autonomous water sampling as part of Stratogem program undertaken by University of British Columbia, 2002-2004. Repeated tracks across Strait of Georgia.

Your access to IMOS Sensors on Temperate Merchant Vessels data discovery and exploration is through the Australian Ocean Data Network (AODN) Portal.