Our eyes are the first line of defence against maritime hazards, but they are not the best detectors at night or in bad weather. FLIR thermal imaging cameras help cruise operators detect potential dangers before they become real problems.

Cruising on the oceans, when skies are clear and seas are calm, is an undoubtedly pleasurable experience, but come nightfall or bad weather, the water becomes an altogether more dangerous place to reside.

A maritime accident doesn’t just have severe consequences for the ship, it can also be devastating for its passengers, and so potential hazards need to be picked up quickly. After dark and in adverse weather conditions, the naked eye can only give captains so much reassurance, so cruise liners use thermal imaging cameras to give them and their customers complete peace of mind.

Having brought the first commercial infrared camera to market in the 1960s, FLIR helped create the infrared imaging industry as we know it today. The company’s mission is to provide the most innovative systems available to the industries it serves. Its ultimate goal is to provide greater insight into all types of thermal phenomena, and help customers save money, and often lives, by applying this knowledge effectively.

Thermal imaging cameras, like the ones FLIR produces, work by detecting the invisible infrared energy or "heat" radiation emitted from an object and converting it into a visible image.

Infrared lies between the visible and microwave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Any object that has a temperature above absolute zero emits radiation in the infrared region, even objects we usually think of as being very cold, such as ice cubes. But humans can’t see infrared because the energy of the light particles given out by the object is too low to stimulate the photoreceptors in our eyes.

Consequently, FLIR’s full range of thermal imaging cameras are sought by owners and operators of vessels for some of the most demanding marine applications, where the human eye is not precise enough for the task at hand. These include, but are not limited to: navigation, collision avoidance and overboard recovery.

Save energy, save time

Night-vision enhancement is obviously an important advantage for cruise operators. The costly vessel, its passengers, cargo and crew need to be protected at all times. So to assist navigation, FLIR cameras detect extremely small differences in thermal radiation and convert that information into real-time video that is displayed on a monitor on the bridge.

A crisp video is produced that allows the captain of a ship to see the vessel’s surroundings even on the darkest of nights. FLIR’s cameras require no light at all to function, and can work in absolute darkness. This means captains can clearly see channel markings, shipping lane traffic, exposed rocks, other vessels and any other floating object that could damage a ship if left undetected. Even small objects that might not be picked up by radar become clearly visible on a thermal image.

The cameras work during the day as well, and give users the ability to see through marine haze and the sun’s glare more effectively than with the unaided eye. The technology allows users to detect possible obstacles when navigating during sunrise or sunset.

But arguably the most important use of thermal imaging technology is locating missing passengers. Each year, a number of cruise voyagers die after falling overboard and not being found fast enough.

When just a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death, locating a person in the water within the shortest possible time-frame is of the utmost importance. Not only can the individual float away from the vessel, hypothermia can set in quickly. But thanks to thermal imaging, the person overboard can quickly be located and helped out of the water.

Aside from saving lives, cruise operators should also consider the security solutions thermal imaging can bring.
The technology allows the crew to see what is around them, even at long range, enabling them to monitor activity in port and detect approaching vessels at sea without alerting them that they are being observed.