U.S. ports and waterways handle more than 2 billion tons of domestic and import/export cargo annually. For over 200 years, the mariners who transport America’s cargo have trusted Coast Survey’s nautical charts to navigate in those ports and coastal waters. After a hurricane or other disaster, however, mariners need more than a chart from NOAA.
Speeding the re-opening of ports and protecting lives
Ports will only operate when it is safe for navigation. After damaging storms, ports may set restrictions on ship travel, or may shut down completely, until NOAA hydrographers, onboard specially equipped survey vessels, can re-measure water depths and look for other underwater dangers to navigation.
Coast Survey’s emergency navigation response teams work in tandem with navigation managers, surveying ports and near-shore waterways, searching for dangerous objects or changes in water depth.
The teams’ fast, accurate, and precise hydrographic surveys allow port officials to safely direct ship traffic, speeding the resumption of shipping. That response is essential to the American economy, throughout the country.
The teams also respond to non-weather conditions that may cause loss of life, recovering objects or conducting underwater searches in coastal areas.
Employing the right survey platforms for conditions
All of the navigation response teams use specially designed multibeam echo sounding equipment to “see” changes of the sea floor. Their side scan sonars produce accurate depictions of underwater objects.
Additional survey platforms and resources may be deployed when necessary.
- NOAA ships can be diverted from scheduled hydrographic projects.
- A mobile integrated survey team (MIST) can set up equipment and manpower quickly on a vessel of opportunity.
- Autonomous underwater vehicles can enhance capacity and flexibility of teams who need to conduct other work to assess storm damage.
- Private sector surveyors under contract can be awarded emergency task orders.
In all emergencies, whether they are natural phenomena or man-made situations, Coast Survey’s emergency response teams provide the information that officials need.
When not conducting emergency surveys, the navigation response teams respond to the needs of the maritime economy by conducting hydrographic surveys for critical chart updates for the top 175 major ports within the U.S. marine transportation system.
Responding to calls for assistance
Coast Survey speeds re-opening of Hampton Roads, Virginia, after Hurricane Irene
Coast Survey responds to March 2011 tsunami