PortMiami has started using NOAA’s Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS) navigational safety system.
PORTS is a decision-support tool that provides vessel operators with key environmental parameters in real time, including water levels, currents, waves, salinity, bridge clearance (air gap), wind speed and direction, air and water temperature and visibility. It is tailored to the specific needs of each port.
The technology will provide ship operators with critical real-time information on currents that can help them better plan their transit and prevent accidents in and around the port. In Miami, strong currents from the Gulf Stream run perpendicular to the shipping channel. The current meters will give vessel pilots the accurate, real-time data they need to make navigation decisions to direct larger ships into port.
The PORTS public-private partnership initiative reduces ship accidents by more than 50 percent, increases the amount of cargo ships can carry, reduces transit delays for commercial traffic, enhances recreational activities and improves hazardous spill response. Before the addition of PortMiami, a NOAA analysis estimated as much as a $300 million annual benefit from an expanded PORTS system. Including PortMiami, there are 31 PORTS in the country, supporting 85 percent of the nation’s cargo by tonnage.
Maritime commerce in the U.S. has tripled in the last 50 years and continues to grow. Ships are getting larger, drawing more water and pushing channel depth limits to derive benefits from every last inch of draft. By volume, more than 95 percent of U.S. international trade moves through the nation’s ports and harbors, with about 50 percent of these goods being hazardous materials.
With increased marine commerce comes increased risks to the coastal environment, making marine navigation safety a serious national concern. From 1996 through 2000, for example, commercial vessels in the U.S. were involved in nearly 12,000 collisions, allisions and groundings.