Supporting Marine Transportation

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Our marine highways carry more than three-quarters of all U.S. goods and supplies. Ensuring that these highways continue to function safely, efficiently, and in an environmentally sound way requires good tools, data, and information.

In fiscal year 2009, NOS continued to support the Nation’s commerce with information for marine transportation. Highlights from the year include:

  • Responding to survey requests in some of the Nation’s busiest ports, to help keep marine transportation moving safely. NOS provided immediate response to incidents such as locating the wreck of the 71-foot fishing vessel Lady Mary near the entrance of the Delaware River; supporting the search effort for the missing engine of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, the commercial plane which made an emergency landing on the Hudson River; and conducting surveys in Honolulu Harbor in response to reports of container ships “touching bottom” while docking. NOS also located the submerged oil rig ENSCO, which was toppled by Hurricane Ike near Galveston, Texas, and assisted the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with salvage operations of a 175-foot derelict barge in the Port of Tacoma, Washington.
  • Expanding the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®) program to Lake Charles and New Orleans, Louisiana. These PORTS® are positioned to provide significant safety and economic benefits. Louisiana’s Lower Mississippi River moves about 500 million tons of cargo each year and provides jobs and income to the region. NOAA’s PORTS® program provides accurate real-time oceanographic and meteorological data to mariners, helping to reduce the risk of vessel groundings as well as increase the amount of cargo moved through a port.
  • Leading a U.S. delegation to deliver President Barack Obama’s first signed instrument of ratification at the fourth Extraordinary International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) Convention. The document provides U.S. affirmation of sweeping organizational changes to IHO’s Convention and will set the global stage for broader geographic coverage, better consistency and quality, and easier availability of nautical charts produced around the world. Common chart and survey standards, used globally, will ultimately increase the safety of navigation in U.S. waters and reduce environmental damage to marine ecosystems.
  • Co-sponsoring the final report, Opening the Arctic Seas: Envisioning Disasters and Framing Solutions, from an international workshop to address threats to the Arctic. The report, released by the Coastal Response Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, provides a qualitative analysis of risk factors for five potential marine incidents likely to happen as shipping, tourism, exploration, and development of natural resources occur with the retreating Arctic ice cover.
  • Celebrating the delivery of 100 million digital geospatial products since beginning to track usage in 2003. These products include Continuously Operating Reference Station datasets, electronic survey mark data sheets, and geographic information shape files, as well as Online Positioning User Service solutions and a variety of other digital geospatial products.
  • Accepting the foundation of a new system that will revolutionize how NOAA produces nautical charts. Nautical Chart System II represents a technological leap forward in creating the charts that mariners need to help people and goods safely and efficiently travel the Nation’s marine highways. This stand-alone system will produce all formats of charts,from paper and raster to Electronic Navigational Charts.
  • Completing a major current meter survey project in Alaska, Florida, and Massachusetts. The data collected will help update tidal current predictions critical to safe navigation and other applications that are published annually in the U.S. Tidal Current Tables. The Current Survey projects will support navigation and the operation of deep-draft vessels in the area and will establish new stations that have been identified as important for the Nation’s commercial and recreational transportation systems.
  • Submitting positioning products from 2000 to the present to the International Global Navigation Satellite System Service (IGS) for inclusion with products from other IGS Analysis Centers to create a new International Terrestrial Reference Frame. Collected data are used for a variety of purposes, including precise Global Positioning System satellite positions, precise positions of tracking stations, and the precise position of Earth’s axis of rotation.