What do pilots see on the navigation laptop displays of their portable pilot units (PPUs) when they guide deep-draft ships to dock? Often, they aren’t seeing all that is actually out there in the navigation channel.
NOAA Coast Survey’s navigation manager Tim Osborn recently observed the problem when he accompanied one of the pilots from the New Orleans Baton Rouge Pilots Association in a ship transit on the Mississippi River.
As demonstrated by the pilots, some of the dredges working on the river ‒ in and adjacent to the very busy navigation channel ‒ had no automatic identification system (AIS) units onboard, so they weren’t showing up on the pilot’s navigation laptop display.
“Many of these dredges on the river are hard to see with radar, and it’s very difficult to see them at night or in bad weather,” Osborn says. “With the Mississippi River experiencing more ship traffic and more terminals on and along the river, the risks of moving ships safely are growing each year.”
Osborn worked with the pilots and the U.S. Coast Guard in support of the Coast Guard’s new rule requiring dredges, working on and around navigation channels, to start carrying and operating AIS devices.
“This added safety measure is an example of the continuing collaboration between the nation’s pilots and NOAA Coast Survey, as we work together to improve the safety of vessels moving throughout the marine transportation system,” Osborn observes.
The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 33, 164.46, now provides that “a self-propelled vessel engaged in dredging operations in or near a commercial channel or shipping fairway in a manner likely to restrict or affect navigation of other vessels” must have an AIS Class A device on board.