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via NOAA

USA - On the Level: How NOAA Water Data Updates Help Maritime Shippers

In-depth tide data and benchmark verification project will take dozens of experts years to complete.

Experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have embarked on a five-year scientific journey through America’s waterways.

NOAA, along with several national and international partners, is updating the baselines used to measure water level heights and depths along U.S. coastlines and in the Great Lakes. One of the goals is to make navigation safer for mariners and shippers.

According to NOAA, the U.S. maritime transportation system consists of more than 25,000 miles of waterways, ports and other navigable waters. It is the backbone for moving goods, services and people throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Chris DiVeglio, Maritime Services Program manager with NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS), told FreightWaves that there is a concentration of real-time water level stations at ports. Each station references a particular datum used as a basis for calculations or measurements.

“A lot of these seaports are continuing to see growth. Not just in the frequency of the ships calling, but also the size of the vessels,” DiVeglio said.

More than 95% of all U.S. trade involves some form of maritime transport, and ships move $1.4 trillion worth of products in and out of U.S. ports every year. Ship operators across the globe rely on accurate information about ocean conditions, including water levels, currents and winds. This leads to efficient planning of shipping routes, maximizes cargo on board and can make navigating narrow shipping lanes safer.

“Eventually, there may be changes that are applied to nautical charts,” DiVeglio added. “[This is] because the depths on the nautical charts are referenced to different datums for the sake of navigation.”

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