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--> Appendix C Maritime Advanced Information Systems Puget Sound Region Regional Characteristics The Puget Sound region includes two major container and general cargo ports, Seattle and Tacoma. These two ports combined rank second in volume of container traffic among U.S. ports on the West Coast. Besides containers, Seattle and Tacoma also handle a variety of other cargoes, such as lumber, automobiles, fruit, and grain. The smaller ports in Cherry Point, Ferndale, Bellingham, Anacortes, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Everett, and Olympia handle petroleum and forest products. The northern seaward entrance to Puget Sound is through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is the U.S.-Canadian border. The strait is also the entrance to the Canadian port of Vancouver to the north. Seattle is approximately 125 miles down the strait from the ocean, and Tacoma is approximately 150 miles from the ocean. Major oil terminals receiving tanker shipments from Alaska and elsewhere are located in the northern section of Puget Sound, which is also home to a large deep-sea and local fishing fleet, several major U.S. Navy installations, and a substantial coastal freighter fleet. In addition, many passenger and car ferries operate throughout the region because of the numerous large bodies of water separating population centers. Because of its natural beauty, Puget Sound is highly regarded as a recreational boating center, and pleasure boat traffic is substantial. The local population is very concerned with protecting the environment of the sound and numerous other adjacent waterways. Dating back at least to 1935,1 the state of Washington has imposed special requirements for shipping in state waters to protect the environment and natural resources. The Puget Sound waterways are subject to a variety of weather and oceanographic conditions, including storms, strong currents, and low visibility due to rain and seasonal fog. Although the main channels are deep and wide, navigation in some waterways in ports is restricted by vessel size and draft. Because of the diversity in vessel types and sizes in the area, mariners must exercise extreme care in monitoring other vessel traffic. The substantial numbers of ferry operations, often crossing at right angles to the shipping lanes, present special traffic management problems. The ports of Seattle and Tacoma are mainly "landlord ports," owning and leasing property for terminal operations. The major container terminals are operated by large steamship lines (e.g., Sea-Land, American President Lines, Hanjin, NYK, Maersk) and certain independent terminal operators, such as Stevedoring Services of America. The Port Authority's role is to serve as a catalyst for economic growth and job creation through port development and the expansion of private industry. The port has substantial investments in land and certain capital improvements but is not responsible for day-to-day operations of terminals or other facilities. Summary of Maritime Information Systems A committee work group held a one-day meeting in the Port of Seattle. Representatives of government and industry organizations that provide or use certain key port or terminal information systems were invited. Participants included the U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington State Office of Marine Safety, Puget Sound ferry operators, terminal operators, and the marine exchange. The major systems they use are described below. U.S. Coast Guard The vessel traffic service (VTS) system in Puget Sound is one of the most comprehensive systems operated by the U.S. 1 In the state Pilotage Act of 1935, "the legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of the state of Washington to prevent loss of human lives, loss of property and vessels, and to protect the marine environment through the sound application of compulsory pilotage . . ."
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--> Coast Guard (USCG). It covers an extensive geographic region that includes a number of harbors and cooperates with the Canadian Coast Guard in monitoring vessel traffic along the international border. The Vessel Traffic Center (VTC) in Seattle receives signals from 12 strategically located radar sites throughout the Puget Sound area. These radars cover approximately 2,900 square miles, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Rosario Strait, Admiralty Inlet, and Puget Sound south to Commencement Bay at Tacoma. In addition, several critical waterways are covered by closed-circuit television. This system has been in continuous operation since 1972, and participation has been mandatory for certain vessels since 1974. (All powered vessels more than 40 meters in length, tugs more than 8 meters in length, and vessels carrying 50 or more passengers are required to participate.) The three major components of the VTS are the surveillance network, a traffic separation scheme (as adopted by the International Maritime Organization), and a vessel movement reporting system. The reporting system uses a VHF-FM communications network with 10 low-elevation, low-power sites and 3 high-elevation, high-power sites continuously maintained by the VTC in Seattle. The VTS operators process all information received from vessels and disseminate all navigational safety information to mariners who ask for or require it. The VTS data management, processing, and display systems were recently upgraded and, according to most users and the local maritime community, they now provide excellent traffic monitoring and oversight, as well as safety in the region. The system has broad support even though the available analyses of benefits are subjective and rely on anecdotal evidence. One drawback is the lack of compatibility between the current software and other Windows-based systems and databases; improvements are planned in that regard. Plans for future enhancements include the addition of an automatic identification system (AIS), which will enable the VTC to receive continuous identification and tracking information from each vessel equipped with a transponder and will eliminate the need for voice communications for identification. The local USCG office and the state ferry system are participating in demonstrations and tests of using transponders on ferries. Experience to date indicates that AIS offers benefits both in terms of safety and improved ferry operations, and discussions are under way to move ahead with adopting a specific system. Although the Puget Sound VTS system is achieving its mission of safe traffic management and aiding navigation, it operates as a self-contained system, with virtually no electronic connection to other maritime information systems in the regional port complex. For example, every two hours VTC operators fax a report on vessels in the system to the local marine exchange, which maintains a database on ship arrivals and departures. It is theoretically (and probably technically) possible to link the VTS data directly with the marine exchange database, but this option has not been explored because the USCG is concerned about unauthorized access to its data. The USCG does not even integrate its own information systems. There is no electronic data link between the VTC and the local USCG Marine Safety Office (MSO); instead, the data are exchanged by fax. The MSO operates the marine safety information system, which was developed in the 1970s and is difficult to integrate with other databases. These information systems do not provide adequate support for the ship inspectors, who must sort through numerous paper documents to check a vessel's accident history. Similarly, the USCG maintains paper records of hazardous materials notifications for all vessels entering the port. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) performs its traditional maritime information services, including hydrographic surveys and nautical charting, weather forecasting, and operation of tidal gauges. Weather information, forecasts, and tidal gauge data have recently been available to all users over the Internet. Updated survey information is made available to local pilots, and electronic charts are already available for the region. Because local mariners do not seem willing to support an extensive physical oceanographic real-time system (PORTS) in the region, NOAA operates a modest system, which includes user-accessible tidal gauges at three locations. The ports of Seattle and Tacoma have been encouraged to contribute to system maintenance. NOAA also is engaged in a variety of local research and investigations to promote safe marine transportation and prevent environmental damage. NOAA's other responsibilities include tracking the movement of oil spills and evaluating their effects on sensitive areas. Because the relevant data systems have to be coordinated with the rest of the maritime community, NOAA works closely with local stakeholders and supports the collection of data on marine casualties. Washington State Department of Ecology The Washington State Department of Ecology is responsible for enforcing certain state regulations governing vessel transits within state waters and certain required safety features. The office has developed a system to evaluate the potential environmental threat posed by a vessel, based on factors such as age, flag state, and casualty history. Information from the USCG, Lloyd's, and other sources is entered into the system. The agency screens vessels entering the sound and selects certain ones to board and inspect based on the risk factors determined by the model. In addition, a near-miss reporting system is being developed as another accident-prevention tool.
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--> Representatives of this office assert that a central database for the entire region, accessible to everyone, would help reduce vessel accidents and protect the marine environment. To achieve this vision, greater cooperation would be required among federal and local agencies and the industry, and existing databases would have to be linked (requiring improvements in interfaces and systems compatibility). Data from the American Waterways Operators and the Washington State Pilotage Commission could also be included. Washington State Ferry System The high volume of ferry traffic on numerous waterways in the Puget Sound region poses unique challenges for vessel management. The state ferry system operates 25 vessels that engage in a total of 450 to 550 trips per day, depending on the season. Many of these transits take place in busy port regions, and routes typically cross the major shipping lanes. Safety is a primary concern to the operators. All ferries participate in the VTS system, which provides important safety information. Recent tests of transponders aboard ferries suggest that this technology enhances the VTS system's capabilities and may also improve operational efficiency and customer service. The ferry operators are now considering whether to make transponders a permanent part of their operations and evaluating the various purposes for which they might be used. For example, it might be possible to track each vessel's position and estimated time of arrival at a terminal continuously and accurately. This information could be used to manage automobile traffic at terminals and provide customers with up-to-date information about traffic delays and other particulars. Thus, it may be possible to justify the cost of a complete transponder tracking system based on both business and safety concerns. Currently AIS is only installed on selected ferries. Container Terminal Operations Several major container terminals are located in the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Each has an information system that provides data on cargo entering and leaving the terminal and manages the cargo data needed by ocean and land carriers, shippers, agents, and government agencies. Most systems are automated and are electronically connected with the U.S. Customs Service system. The terminal information systems are usually internal to an organization and contain proprietary data. Independent terminal operators handle cargo from many ocean carriers and must accommodate the systems used by each one. Several large terminals are operated by ocean carriers themselves and, therefore, can readily integrate ship-to-terminal information flow. The terminal operated by American President Lines is experimenting with a satellite-tracking and container-tagging system that is capable of providing location information within four feet for each container, in a terminal (or any other location with an electronic relay station nearby). The system appears to offer substantial benefits in terms of improving the management of cargo movements within terminals. Whether this system can be used efficiently to track containers on vessels and land carriers depends on the value of the information compared to the cost and difficulty of obtaining it. Puget Sound Marine Exchange The Puget Sound Marine Exchange is active in this port region. It maintains data on commercial vessels, their movements, and their projected and actual port arrival and departure times. These data are supplied to a variety of users in the marine industry. The marine exchange is thus an information broker of increasing importance. It is one of four marine exchanges on the West Coast that recently formed a cooperative organization known as the Maritime Information System of North America. The partners are currently sharing data on vessel movements and locations through the Internet in an effort to improve both the accuracy and timeliness of information. They also plan to discuss the concept with marine exchanges in other areas of the United States interested in improving data exchange. The marine exchange database is not linked electronically to the VTS system. Nor is it linked to the data system operated by local pilots. Another project developed by the Puget Sound Marine Exchange on behalf of vessel owners and operators is the international tug of opportunity system (ITOS). This project is an industry response to a proposal for a dedicated standby tug stationed at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to assist tankers and other vessels during emergencies. The ITOS was proposed by stakeholders as a less costly and more effective alternative to the dedicated, standby tug. Under ITOS, the marine exchange maintains a database on the location and capabilities of all tugs in the region at all times, manages an emergency response plan, and notifies the right persons to dispatch a capable tug to the scene in case of an incident. The program requires both an automated data system and an accurate vessel tracking system. A transponder-based tracking system has been proposed for the tugs. An AIS (different from the ferry system) is currently installed on tugs and other craft and is being evaluated. The marine exchange is developing information systems that serve the local and regional maritime community as a nonprofit organization offering fee-based services. It is the only industry organization that integrates information flow for customers who pay for the service. The marine exchange is investigating whether the collection and dissemination of real-time data on water depth would be supported by industry. Puget Sound Pilots The Puget Sound Pilotage District is managed by the Washington State Board of Pilotage Commission under state regulations. Pilots must pass a rigorous examination and
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--> demonstrate both a high level of knowledge and the appropriate and accurate use of that knowledge. They use many sources of navigational information, including Coast Pilots, Light Lists, applicable excerpts from the Code of Federal Regulations, NOAA charts, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers surveys, berth surveys from port and terminal operators, and maritime reference manuals and textbooks. On-duty pilots are assigned to vessels by dispatchers using a special computer system. This system is accessible to dispatchers at the Seattle office during working hours and at their homes by modem after hours and on weekends. The system is also accessible to pilots and boatmen standing by at the Port Angeles pilot station, and by pilots from their homes when standing by for outbound assignments. The system provides the following primary functions: transmits orders to dispatchers and provides a list of pending and assigned vessel movements calculates billing amounts from pilotage tariffs and prepares invoices maintains a vessel database that dispatchers can verify and update based on the vessel itself, a printed Lloyd's List, and other sources maintains a database of predicted tides and currents and calculates tide levels at scheduled departure and arrival times stores and maintains assignment information (e.g., berth spotting criteria, number of tugs assigned, name of tug company) relayed from the vessel master or agent provides dispatchers with information needed to assign rested pilots uses historical data to forecast the end of assignment time and total pilot requirements so that off-duty pilots can be called, if necessary, to accommodate heavy vessel traffic creates reports required by the state of pilot assignments, rest periods, and analysis of assignments and billing used to substantiate manning levels and tariff adjustments The pilot dispatch computer system also incorporates warnings, which are activated if a dispatcher enters data that exceeds set limits, such as a vessel draft. The system also provides a warning if a vessel is bound for a berth that is already occupied. This design allows the dispatcher to coordinate vessel arrival and departure times with each vessel's agent and thus minimize delays. Certain warnings may be reviewed by the pilot association president, who advises on the most appropriate transit times and other aspects of vessel movement. In addition to using the computer system, dispatchers also verify scheduling of vessel movements by telephone with the marine exchange, tug companies, and others to minimize conflicts and delays. Also, the arrival times of vessels under way are obtained from the VTS system or directly from the vessel by VHF radio or a pilot's cellular telephone.
Representative terms from entire chapter: