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ABPmer undertakes navigational assessment for Shetland Space Centre

We have just completed the UK’s first Navigational Risk Assessment to support marine licensing of space-based activities in UK waters


The Shetland Space Centre (SSC) plans to build a launch site and ground tracking station on Unst, Shetland Islands. It aims to be fully operational by 2021.

SSC commissioned specialist marine consultancy ABPmer to investigate any navigational issues ahead of their marine licence application.

Following consultation with regulators, harbour authorities and local marine users, we provided marine licensing advice and a Navigational Risk Assessment (NRA). The NRA, completed in close liaison with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, covers the first planned activities: balloon and short-range sounding rocket launches. Through the NRA process, the potential impact on maritime activities in the operational launch and recovery areas were assessed.

The NRA identified that, whilst balloon and rocket launch and recovery activities have the potential to interact with vessel traffic during operations, the risk can be mitigated through a series of active warning, monitoring and recovery measures.

Harry Aitchison, ABPmer's Project Manager, said “Understanding navigational risk is a vital step in any marine development. Considering the potential for the SSC’s launch and recovery activities interacting with maritime users, undertaking a review of this kind ensures the appropriate risk mitigation measures can be implemented.”

Jacques Meheut, Shetland Space Centre Manager, said “We were very pleased with the Navigational Risk Assessment undertaken by ABPmer to support upcoming balloon and sounding rocket activities around the Shetland Islands.

“The project presents unique challenges; with this being a new sector to the UK, ABPmer ensured that all associated risks had been assessed and mitigated to industry best practice. The assistance we received was instrumental in helping deliver the UK’s first NRA to support marine licensing of space-based activities in UK waters.”

We regularly undertake navigational risk assessments as part of our port risk management portfolio of services. To find out more, visit our Port Risk Management microsite.

Image © Shetland Space Centre; used with permission