Safety when working or travelling at sea is vital. The hazards and risks presented in these environments are significant, particularly to those who spend extended time in these environments. Technology has always adapted to meet these needs and even more so as the demands for offshore oil and gas platforms increases along with international cargo movement. Forward-looking sonar is one such method, used extensively by vessels of all different sizes. This blog will look at everything you need to know about it.

What is Forward-Looking Sonar

First used to help fishermen detect large shoals of fish, forward-facing technology is now being adopted in many different ships. While sonar technology itself has been in operation since the ‘40s, the benefits of active sonar are becoming more known. Here, an acoustic signal is sent through the water. When it encounters an object, it bounces back as an echo to the transducer. The information gained from this allows sailors to determine many different things, including the distance, movement and purpose of the object in question.

How does Forward-Looking sonar technology improve safety?

This form of sonar helps vessels to better understand the seabed in the journey ahead. When properly understood, the information can be used to avoid collisions, ensure correct direction and reduce the risk of impactful hazards. Captains and crew will be able to identify any hidden obstacles that may sit beneath the water’s surface.


  • Greater visibility – Sonar allows ship members to better understand the sea and seabed around them in a way other technology does not. This heightened visibility is vital for reducing the risk of collisions and keeping everyone safe.
  • Versatile – Forward-facing sonar has long been used on fishing boats. The versatility of this technology also allows it to be used on larger ships too, to heighten safety all around.
  • Reliable – The technology used here (sonar) has been in operation since 1906. For over 114 years, we have relied on it to help detect things unseeable by the naked eye. And as our machines and boats continue to evolve, so does the reliability of this method.


  • Requires knowledge – Learning how to use sonar effectively requires training. The information given back needs to be interpreted appropriately to ensure it can be used to an effective level. There may be just a few people on board a vessel that understands how it works and can provide accurate recommendations as a result.
  • Expensive – Especially for smaller ships, installing forward-facing sonar can be a considerable financial investment.
  • Potentially dangerous – There is some research to suggest that sonar can negatively impact marine life. Therefore, its use should be mindful and conscious.
  • Noisy – Some forward-facing sonar machines can produce excessive noise below the water’s surface. This can present problems for humans working beneath the sea, such as divers and the military.

Forward-Looking sonar offers many benefits to seafarers but must be used with conscious knowledge of the impact it can have on marine life and the environment. If you would like to discuss this technology further or have any other questions regarding safety at sea, get in contact with the team here at Pinpoint Electronics Ltd.