NOAA’s navigation assets complete primary post-Sandy assignments, remain available to assist

NOAA continues to work in partnership with other federal, state, and local partners in response to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. NOAA’s efforts are focused on navigation surveys to restore maritime commerce; aerial surveys to assist in those efforts and to aid on-the-ground responders from FEMA and local authorities; and in oil spill cleanup and damage assessment.  NOAA’s National Weather Service is also keeping authorities aware of changing weather conditions that could impact recovery and response efforts.

NOAA’s hydrographic survey vessels, including two three-person navigation response teams (NRTs) and the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson with her two survey launches, have completed surveys of the Port of New York and New Jersey. Working over the past five days, the high-tech vessels searched approximately 20 square nautical miles of shipping lanes, channels, and terminals to search for dangers to navigation.

Coast Survey navigation managers were embedded with the Coast Guard Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit for the Port of NY/NJ, coordinating NOAA’s survey response. Lt. Brent Pounds, NOAA, explains ongoing survey operations to one of the port’s terminal operators during the height of operations.

Working with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit, NOAA surveyors provided near-real time updates on underwater object detection (including debris and shipping containers) that allowed the USCG Captain of the Port to make decisions on  port status. (Note: Follow the status of port conditions at U.S. Coast Guard Digital News.)

In addition to aiding in the gradual reopening of the New York City-area port to shipping, including special emergency deliveries of needed petroleum fuels products, NOAA navigation survey response teams also provided valuable data to allow for: the reopening of the port at Hampton Roads, Virginia, home of the largest naval base in the world and one of the nation’s leading ports for the shipping of coal; the reopening of the ports of Baltimore and Philadelphia; and the resumption of the ferry that connects Lewes, Del., and Cape May, N.J.— an important access route to bring aid to stricken New Jersey and Delaware shore communities.

While NOAA’s navigation assets have completed their primary assignments, they remain available to continue to assist the U.S. Coast Guard, as needed, and will be conducting additional surveys in smaller navigational areas of South Jersey and Delaware in coming days.

The NRTs’ work helps speed the re-opening of ports and waterways, allowing the flow of relief supplies, and enabling the resumption of ocean commerce — valued at more than $1 trillion annually to the nation’s economy — to resume.

The processed images from multibeam echosounders provide critical images of the seafloor. This image of a sunken container was acquired during the post-Sandy survey of the Port of NY/NJ, processed by a survey technician on the Thomas Jefferson.

NOAA hydrographers and survey technicians will continue to process the billions of points of data collected by the five NOAA vessels since Sandy response operations began on Oct. 30 at the Port of New York and New Jersey. While initial assessments are based off on-scene observations, additional image processing may reveal further details.

Once processed, Sandy response hydrographic data collected by all NOAA survey vessels in N.Y., N.J., Delaware Bay, and Chesapeake Bay will be available from the National Geophysical Data Center. This data is valuable for contemporary use—but also for reference if NOAA vessels need to re-survey the same areas in future years.

The National Ocean Service has more information on the status of post-Sandy operations for damage assessment, pollution response, and weather reporting.

Example of depth measurements of Sandy Hook Channel from one of NOAA’s post-Sandy surveys.

Surveys continue in Port of New York / New Jersey, completed in Virginia

Coast Survey’s major survey operations in response to Sandy are completed in Port of Virginia, allowing port operations to resume. That timely resumption is proving to be vital for East Coast shipping, as the port is now receiving cargo diverted from the Port of New York and New Jersey. Associated Press is reporting that more than a thousand containers were offloaded in Virginia yesterday, with more on the way.

Meanwhile, critical survey work continues in the Port of New York and New Jersey, with two of Coast Survey’s navigation response teams (NRT) and two of the Thomas Jefferson launches continuing their search for dangers to navigation in shipping channels and terminals. Today, the high tech survey boats attached to the Thomas Jefferson surveyed the East River, as the ship processes data for delivery to the Coast Guard. One of the boats then went to survey Church Hill Channel this afternoon, while the other went to Gravesend Bay. NRT 2 is surveying Port Elizabeth and Port Newark in Newark Bay. NRT 5 surveyed Kill Van Kull and then proceeded to Author Kill.

(Note: Follow the status of port conditions at U.S. Coast Guard Digital News.)

Getting the surveys done, quickly but thoroughly, is extremely important to the nation’s economy. Over $200 billion of imports and exports moved through the Port of NY/NJ in 2011. It is the country’s third largest port, by value of cargo (fourth largest, by volume). The flow of trade at the port reaches from America’s heartland, with exports like automobiles and meat, in addition to many other commodities. (See PANYNJ Trade Statistics.)

This graphic, compiled by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, Navigation Services Division, depicts the surveys at the Port of NY/NJ. NOAA’s planned and completed surveys (shown in blue) are 82% of the total survey requests for the port.

Bonus photo for the day: Ensign Brittany Anderson, onboard the Thomas Jefferson, captured this picture of one of the TJ’s high-tech survey boats (called a “launch”), as they left to survey the East River this morning.

A Thomas Jefferson launch heads out to survey the East River. Photo by Ensign Brittany Anderson, NOAA

Thomas Jefferson night work gives go-ahead for fuel barge delivery into New York – New Jersey

As the sun comes up in New York this morning, Ensign Lindsey Norman retrieves the side scan sonar that NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson used to survey the Hudson River, so fuel barge traffic could resume.  Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Denise Gruccio, NOAA

Even before Sandy hit the New Jersey shore, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey was mobilizing to respond to the emergency, preparing vessels, personnel, and equipment to conduct hydrographic surveys of hard-hit areas, searching for the underwater debris and shoaling that can paralyze shipping at the nation’s ports.

Restoring fuel flow into the New York area has been a top priority — but barge deliveries have been hampered by water borne obstructions that forced a partial closure of the port. NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson mobilized through the night to New York Harbor (see NOAA Chart 12327), where they began surveying at 3:12 this morning, looking for the sunken containers, debris, and shoaling that pose dangers to ships and lives. In the darkness, using high tech side scan sonar equipment, Thomas Jefferson conducted the hydrographic survey of the designated areas on the Hudson River. With the information provided by the Thomas Jefferson’s survey, combined with earlier work conducted by Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Team 5, the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port was able to open the port to fuel barge traffic this morning.

Tank barges and tank ships carries tens of millions of tons of petroleum products through the Port of New York and New Jersey. According to a report by the American Waterways Operators, the barges carry the product throughout the state, from Buffalo to Long Island. “Specific petroleum products transported by barge include gasoline, kerosene, asphalt, lube oil and greases, distillate fuel, and residual fuel. These and other products are used by both consumers and industry to keep New York’s economy moving and growing.”

Thomas Jefferson has now moved to the Anchorage Channel, and two of her smaller vessels – also equipped with high-tech survey equipment – started surveying at daybreak; one conducting a reconnaissance survey in the Buttermilk Channel, to locate sunken containers; and the other checking for shoaling in Sandy Hook Channel.

Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Team 5 got in a full day of surveying yesterday, on the Anchorage Channel. They processed their data overnight, for early delivery to the Captain of the Port, and have started their second day of surveying. Their work will help open the deep draft channel.

Navigation Response Team 2, mobilized from Florida, arrived at the New York Coast Guard station last night, and started their first surveying at daybreak this morning. They will be searching for dangers to navigation between Global Marine Terminal and Port Newark.

Post-SANDY navigation response in full swing

NOAA’s navigation response teams and other survey assets are in the water (or soon will be) as they respond to SANDY’s destruction, checking for underwater debris and shoaling that may pose a risk to navigation. Tasked by the U.S. Coast Guard Captains of the Port, NOAA vessels can use multibeam echo sounders or side scan sonar, as conditions warrant, to search for the answers that speed resumption of shipping and other vessel movements.

As of noon today:

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson started out this morning for New York Harbor, where they will survey for obstructions in waterways, starting at daybreak tomorrow. Visual reconnaissance indicates debris and missing containers may pose a danger to shipping.

Navigation Response Team 5 mobilized from Connecticut and got underway in New York at first light this morning, surveying Anchorage Channel. Their next priorities are the route up to the Manhattan cruise ship terminal, Sandy Hook Channel, and then the Global Marine Terminal.

NOAA Ship Ferdinand Hassler spent yesterday and today surveying deep draft ship channels in Chesapeake Channel and Thimble Shoal Channel, as 78 large vessels, including portions of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, waited to transit through the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.

NOAA R/V Bay Hydro II is surveying in the Hampton Roads area yesterday and today, checking channels needed by coal shipments and aircraft carriers at Norfolk.

Navigation Response Team 2 is on its way from their regularly scheduled surveying off Florida’s coast, headed to help out in NY/NJ. Additionally, an operations manager is transporting mobile survey equipment to New York, as an additional survey resource on a vessel of opportunity.

NOAA R/V Potawaugh mobilized this morning to Lewes, Del., to survey for shoaling that may pose a risk to safe navigation for the Cape May – Lewes Ferry and other vessels. They started surveying, using their multibeam echo sounder, at 1 pm today.

Follow NOAA Office of Coast Survey on Twitter @nauticalcharts, for updates.  

Rapid Maritime Response 31Oct2012 - SANDY

NOAA Ship Hassler starts post-SANDY survey of deep draft routes to Hampton Roads and Baltimore

NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler departed from NOAA’s Marine Operation Center in Norfolk this morning, to start post-SANDY surveys of critical deep water channels.

NOAA’s newest survey ship, the Ferdinand R. Hassler, began survey operations today in support of the U.S. Coast Guard efforts to re-open the Port of Virginia. Hassler was in port at NOAA’s Marine Operations Center – Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia, for maintenance when Hurricane Sandy affected the area. The ship’s crew spent Monday completing the work and system tests necessary to get underway once the storm passed, and has now been returned to limited operational status.

Lt. Cmdr. Ben Evans, Hassler’s commanding officer, got the ship underway today (Tuesday), and will return Wednesday evening. The Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Hampton Roads requested that the ship survey critical portions of Thimble Shoal Channel and Chesapeake Channel, the deep draft routes to the ports of Hampton Roads and Baltimore.

“Surveying the deepest draft channels will allow the Coast Guard to decide when to re-open the port to unrestricted traffic without unnecessary delay,” Evans explained. “The ports of the Chesapeake Bay are critical to the U.S. economy and national security, so we need to make this effort as soon as the ship is ready to sail.”

The need for hydrographic surveying is critical. There are 78 large vessels, including portions of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, waiting to transit through the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.

The Hassler was also a pivotal survey asset last year, as Hampton Roads resumed operations after Hurricane Irene. At that time, Hassler was one of the three NOAA survey vessels used to clear the port from dangers caused by underwater debris or shoaling. Their work enabled a rapid resumption of shipping and port operations in 2011.

“Delays in shipping, even minor ones, cost the economy millions each year,” explained Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “After Hurricane Irene last year, NOAA’s rapid maritime response paid dividends in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, where an average of $5 million worth of cargo is shipped in or out, every hour. This year, rapid response is just as critical.”

The Norfolk Custom District is the country’s 9th largest in terms of the value of total imports and exports moving through the port, with nearly $55 billion in total trade in 2011.

*** Learn more about how NOAA’s National Ocean Service responds to hurricanes.