Army Corps, Coast Guard Partner to Chart U.S. Water Navigation’s Future
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In Kentucky’s largest city, the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers are pioneering the future of riverine, intracoastal and coastal navigation in the United States, according to a Jan. 10 report from the Coast Guard.
Louisville now is host to the Ohio River Enhanced Marine Safety Information Test Bed. Marine Safety Information bulletins contain urgent navigational and weather information. The enhanced system includes additional information, such as bridge clearances, hazardous cargoes, safety and security zones, lock status and aids-to-navigation, all collected from the various government agencies responsible for gathering that information, integrated into one bulletin and transmitted to nearby vessels.
End users also will eventually be able to be access the information electronically in a variety of formats.
The test bed location was selected because of its strategic position on the Ohio River, a major inland waterway that crosses five states before merging into the Mississippi River. The Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries make up the inland marine transportation corridor collectively known as the Western Rivers.
America’s prosperity pumps through these vital economic arteries. Billions of barrels of oil, tons of cargo and bushels of crops travel on the nation’s rivers every year on the way to gas stations, shopping malls and grocery stores.
Many critical American industries rely on these waterways and approximately 15 percent of the total U.S. freight load travels on the waterways that make up the Western Rivers. Riverine transport also reduces air pollution and traffic on America’s roads and railways. With a 60,000-barrel capacity, two tow barges can carry as much cargo as 80 train cars or 300 trucks.
The Coast Guard Office of Navigation Systems and Coast Guard Research and Development Center are working with the Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center at the test area, which covers most of the Ohio River and part of the Mississippi River.
From the test bed, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) — an autonomous and continuous broadcast system that exchanges safety and security information between participating vessels and shore stations — is transmitting the new Enhanced Marine Safety Information messages to vessels from the Ohio River locks around Louisville.
The test bed is helping to determine the equipment and infrastructure needed to modernize U.S. waterways and make them safer, more efficient and more resilient. The Coast Guard is also using the test bed to explore how to best integrate AIS into its existing Marine Safety Information and aids-to-navigation systems.
Maintaining aids to navigation is the Coast Guard’s oldest mission, tracing its roots to the ninth law passed by Congress, which created the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment in 1789.
As the multimission maritime service responsible for the safety, security and stewardship of American waterways, the Coast Guard maintains the aids-to-navigation system, which includes more than 48,000 buoys, beacons and electronic aids.
The system safely guides millions of mariners and trillions of dollars in trade into U.S. ports. It supports military, commercial and recreational mariners across the 25,000 miles of coastal, intracoastal and inland waterways of the Marine Transportation System.
The Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have a shared responsibility for navigable waterways in the United States. NOAA produces nautical charts, and provides tidal and weather information, while the Army Corps conducts hydrographic surveys, maintains locks and dredges waterways.
On busy American waterways, Coast Guard aids-to-navigation save lives, protect property and enable commerce — and much of that commerce travels down America’s rivers past cities like Louisville.
“The test site will not only help improve service delivery on our inland waterways but also across the entire Marine Transportation System,” said Coast Guard Capt. Scott J. Smith, chief of the Office of Navigation Systems.
Together with other AIS initiatives like the “Digital Lightship” capability that enables the Coast Guard to provide safety information in austere locations and to quickly reconstitute ports following disasters, the test bed is part of the interagency Future of Navigation initiative.
Smith said the initiative will help to bring American waterways into the 21st century.
“The [Enhanced Marine Safety Information] test site brings together two of the principal agencies that are charting a course for a more effective and efficient maritime system,” he said.