Aerial view of Long Beach, California. Credit: iStock
Precision marine navigation is the ability of a vessel to safely and efficiently navigate within U.S. waters, operating in close proximity to the seafloor, narrow channels, or other hazards. NOAA’s Precision Marine Navigation Program envisions a one-stop-shop for marine navigation data, integrating forecasts, real-time observations, warnings and advisories, and high-resolution bathymetry. This program, once fully operational, will seamlessly integrate high-resolution bathymetry, high-accuracy positioning, and shoreline data with forecast data of water levels, currents, waves, and weather information. All of this data will be integrated into maritime electronic charting systems and other decision support tools so it is easy to access. As a result, mariners will be better equipped to make critical navigation decisions because the collective value of these datasets is even more powerful when they are integrated. Mariners operating in both U.S. coastal waters and the Great Lakes will use this additional foundational data and real-time observations to optimize their routes and safely maneuver their approach to and within congested ports and harbor areas. For example, by taking advantage of a strong current, a ship can operate well below its maximum speed while traveling just as efficiently. It has been shown that a speed reduction of just 10% may result in a 19% reduction in total average emissions. Accurate water level forecasts and updated high-resolution bathymetry can also reduce the need for lightering and the environmental risk associated with the transfer of toxic materials, decrease the time a vessel is docked, and cut down on port congestion. Real-time observations can help to ensure that a ship avoids a grounding, an accident, or serious weather hazards while in transit.
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