Navigation equipment caught up in legal storm

Navigation equipment caught up in legal storm                 

04 Nov 2014

A maritime law firm is investigating the legal implications of navigation equipment affected by solar storms.

This follows the UK Met Office’s opening of a new forecast centre named ‘Space weather’, which describes changing environmental conditions in the near-Earth space. Magnetic fields, radiation, particles and matter in Earth’s upper atmosphere could impact radio communications and GPS, and disrupt power grids, says the Met Office.

In a bid to understand the legal implications associated with these potential disruptions, UK-based Pysdens, reviewed national and international transport law under its commercial and legal models.

In the case of the maritime Convention known as the Rotterdam Rules, intended by the UN to regulate the international carriage of goods partly or wholly by sea, the Pysdens says it found a “potential deficiency” which could cause problems in cases of accidents caused by outer space events and weather. Under the Rotterdam Rules, if a solar storm caused the GPS onboard a vessel to fail, the carrier would have to prove it was not at fault if, despite the availability of manual navigation aids, loss or damage occurs.

In addition, Pysdens looked at piracy, outer space terrorism and concluded that in the case of commercial transportation of goods and people and terrorism, the dependency of humans on satellites in terms of communication and navigation needs to be considered in relation to contractual and statutory consequences.

Pysdens says it hopes a commercial framework can be developed and distributed with the hope of reducing the possibility of “catastrophic financial consequences” as seen in 2008.

By Rachael Doyle - MJ