From seaports to the deep blue sea, bathymetry matters on many scales

By Rear Adm. Shep Smith, director of the Office of Coast Survey

On Thursday, June 21, we celebrate World Hydrography Day. This year’s theme—Bathymetry – the foundation for sustainable seas, oceans and waterways—is very timely as many hydrographic organizations worldwide are focusing on bathymetry at local and global scales. While we work to perfect real-time data and high-resolution bathymetry for ports, we are still working to build a foundational baseline dataset of the global seafloor. Our work at both scales have implications for the local and global economies.

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New NOAA precision navigation program increases safety, efficiency for maritime commerce

Mariners face complex decisions as ever-larger vessels make their way through congested U.S. ports.

By Capt. Liz Kretovic, deputy hydrographer of the Office of Coast Survey

Nowadays, many cars have sensors, video cameras, and other technology installed to help drivers park in tight spaces. Now imagine you are trying to parallel park a tractor-trailer on an icy hill, against a strong crosswind, with millions of dollars of products that depend on your precise execution. Dynamic conditions, tight spaces, and high stakes are exactly the scenario that many commercial vessels face as they move 95 percent of the United States’ foreign trade in and out of U.S. ports and waterways. In a manner comparable to the way car technology supports drivers, NOAA has launched a new program to develop the next generation of marine navigation tools that provide mariners with the information they need to safely and efficiently transport maritime commerce. This next generation of products is referred to as precision navigation.

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NOAA announces launch of crowdsourced bathymetry database

The crowdsourced bathymetry database, displayed in the IHO Data Centre for Digital Bathymetry Data Viewer, has an updated user interface.

By Lt. Cmdr. Adam Reed, Integrated Oceans and Coastal Mapping (IOCM) assistant coordinator

Today NOAA announces the end of a testing phase in the development of a new crowdsourced bathymetry database. Bathymetric observations and measurements from participants in citizen science and crowdsourced programs are now archived and made available to the public through the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) Data Centre for Digital Bathymetry (DCDB) Data Viewer. The operationalized database allows free access to millions of ocean depth data points, and serves as a powerful source of information to improve navigational products.

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First U.S. federal channel using USACE survey data receives improved quality classification from NOAA

By Rachel Medley

The U.S. federal channel in the Delaware Bay is vital to maritime commerce, leading deep draft vessel traffic to and from the major ports of Wilmington, Delaware,  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey. To navigate this federally maintained waterway safely and efficiently, mariners rely on the surveyed depths displayed on nautical charts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Philadelphia District regularly surveys this area, utilizing sophisticated techniques and equipment to map the depths of the seafloor. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, in turn, adds quality classifications to these channel depths and displays them on the nautical chart.

The portion of the federal channel from Newbold Channel Range down to the mouth of the Delaware Bay is the first waterway in the U.S. to have an improved quality classification assigned to USACE survey data—category of zone of confidence (CATZOC)  A2. Improving survey quality and upgrading the CATZOC classification allows operators to accommodate smaller margins of error while still ensuring that navigating maritime approaches and constrained environments remain safe. These decreased tolerances allow ships to maximize their loads, ultimately increasing inbound and outbound cargoes.

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NOAA makes forecast data easier to display in marine navigation systems

By Neil Weston, Office of Coast Survey Technical Director

Have you ever been on the water when weather and sea conditions suddenly change? As mariners can attest, decisions need to be made quickly. Many rely on NOAA operational forecast system (OFS) data—a national network of nowcast and forecast models—to make decisions about their situation on the water. NOAA OFS are available to the mariner as data streams through a variety of websites, including nowCOAST™. However, only recently has OFS data been viewable on marine navigation systems, making it even more convenient for those needing to make critical decisions on the water.

Rose Point’s Coastal Explorer displays NOAA surface current data.
Rose Point’s Coastal Explorer, one example of many navigation software packages available, displays NOAA surface current data.

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NOAA mobile integrated survey team prepares for hurricane season

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is the federal leader in emergency hydrographic response. Consecutive strong storms during the 2017 hurricane season made response efforts challenging, and emphasized the importance of having a well-trained and versatile staff. Coast Survey’s regional navigation managers, navigation response teams (NRTs), and mobile integrated survey team (MIST) worked with partners before and after the storms to quickly and safely reopen ports and waterways.

The MIST equipment is a mobile, quick-install side scan and single beam sonar kit that can be quickly set up on a vessel of opportunity. Recently, Coast Survey sent the MIST team to Astoria, Oregon to conduct a hydrographic survey of the Mott Basin area, which the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) requested to confirm charted depth and obstruction data. Continue reading “NOAA mobile integrated survey team prepares for hurricane season”

NOAA quickly updates nautical chart, allowing large ships to dock with confidence in Port Everglades

Change in the slip length reflected in ENC cell US5FL32 and US4FL31.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey quickly updated NOAA electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) to accurately reflect the 225 foot expansion of a slip in Port Everglades, Florida. Now at a total length of 1,125 feet, the elongated slip allows larger ships to dock with confidence. The Port Everglades Pilots – maritime pilots who maneuver ships through crowded harbors and confined waters – requested the chart update. With ENCs that accurately reflect the slip expansion in their hands, pilots can easily communicate to vessel captains that it is safe to dock their vessels in the slip.

Port Everglades is one of the top three cruise ports in the world, and is among the most active cargo ports in the United States. Every slip is kept in high use, and Coast Survey used a new data process that allowed the most critical and valuable information to be applied quickly and made available to the end user. Continue reading “NOAA quickly updates nautical chart, allowing large ships to dock with confidence in Port Everglades”

NOAA RNC Tile Service displays first ENC-only product

The Merrimack River, located in Massachusetts, is just south of the New Hampshire border.The single chart tile set is named​ 13274K0000_1.

NOAA Office of Coast Survey released its 1:12,000 electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®of the Merrimack River, Massachusetts, in the RNC Tile Service. This is the first time a navigational chart—created solely as ENC product—is included in the tile service. The tile service renders a traditional depiction of the nautical chart for use with GPS-enabled electronic chart systems or other “chart plotter” display systems to provide real-time vessel positioning for recreational mariners. This chart is included in the single chart tile sets and the quilted tile sets both in the online and offline versions. Continue reading “NOAA RNC Tile Service displays first ENC-only product”

NOAA helps ports recover in Georgia and Florida following Hurricane Irma

View of the first fuel ship entering the Port of Tampa after Hurricane Irma, as it passes NRT 5.

Just as Hurricane Harvey response was wrapping up for some of NOAA Coast Survey’s navigation response teams (NRT), personnel and survey assets were positioned in preparation for the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.   

For the NRTs, this meant traveling hundreds of miles with a survey vessel in tow, facing challenges such as locating fueling stations, finding available lodging, and finding opportunities to rest. For the mobile integrated survey team (MIST), which is available to travel anywhere in the U.S. when hydrographic survey assistance is needed by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), this meant finding transportation to a disaster area and a  “vessel of opportunity” to survey from once there. Continue reading “NOAA helps ports recover in Georgia and Florida following Hurricane Irma”

Rear Adm. Shepard M. Smith elected to chair the International Hydrographic Organization Council

RDML Smith (fifth from left) with the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission (October 2016, Iqaluit, Canada).

Rear Adm. Shepard M. Smith, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey and the U.S. national representative to the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), was elected as the chair of the newly established IHO Council.

The council was established in November 2016 as a result of the adoption of amendments to the Convention on the International Hydrographic Organization. It is composed of 30 leading hydrographic nations from the membership of the IHO, and functions much like a corporate board of directors, overseeing performance management and the business side of the IHO. Continue reading “Rear Adm. Shepard M. Smith elected to chair the International Hydrographic Organization Council”