On standby for GPS

August 20, 1999, 10:00 CEST

Problems are unlikely to be faced by Statoil when the global positioning system (GPS) faces its own date "bomb" at 02.00 on 22 August.

At that point, the number denoting the week in GPS satellite transmissions will revert to zero, with potential consequences for ships or other users holding receivers that contain pre-1993 software.

Such recipients may be given an erroneous time signal, which could in turn result in a functional failure.

That might mean that the receiver cannot locate the satellite and ceases to function, or that it takes too long to complete the location process. A third possibility is that the wrong position, time or date will be specified, putting the vessel off course.

Statoil's Year 2000 (Y2K) project also covers preparations and emergency response planning for this event, which has been dubbed the GPS EOW (End of Week).

"We don't expect the EOW date to create any major problems for us," says Christian Hvam, emergency response coordinator for Y2K problems in Exploration & Production Norway.

But the group is nevertheless taking precautions. Offshore installations have been asked to pay particular attention to shipping because vessels suffering from GPS errors could find themselves on a collision course with platforms.

Emergency response is also being tightened during the date resetting period in Statoil operations which depend on the GPS, such as offshore loading.

The entities concerned have reviewed their routines and emergency response plans, and decided which measures should be taken.

Since the GPS is not primarily used as a navigation aid for air traffic, the EOW will have no consequences for Statoil's aviation operations.