Researchers at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Conrad Blucher Institute (CBI) have designed a new mobile application
to provide ship captains and pilots with real-time predictions of ocean water levels and currents along the Houston Ship Channel, which services the second-largest port in the United States, the ports of Houston and Galveston.
The app is based on information from sophisticated models that map and chart the channel’s topographic features several times a day against information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Operational and Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS).
“The Houston-Galveston Ship Channel, part of the second largest port by tonnage in the U.S., is used by more than 700 vessels daily, according to the U.S. Coast Guard,” the institute said in a statement. “And, although Houston pilots use a commercial system to help them navigate through the port, most ships traveling in the Houston/Galveston ship channel are tug boats and barges with more than 128,000 transits each year. Many of these tug boat captains do not benefit from the current commercial navigation system.”
The “Transit Time!” app, is now available for mobile devices, smartphones, and desktop devices, with future planned extensions aimed at helping a broader base of coastal users.
“We’re taking gigabytes of the latest information and finding ways to make it useful to coastal users, said Philippe Tissot, associate director of the Conrad Blucher Institute. “Our ‘Transit Time’ application takes this information and uses mobile technologies to present it in a user-friendly format to ship captains and pilots navigating the Houston-Galveston ship channel.”
For example, Tissot said the app combines modeled and real-time data with the speed and position of the user’s mobile device to predict water levels and currents along the ship channel up to five hours in advance. Factors such as tides, currents, and wind can contribute to incidents, and add to fuel consumption and a longer transit time. The app can also help determine if larger ships have enough clearance to make it through the channel.
While created for the Houston/Galveston ship channel, the application is in the process of being implemented in the Chesapeake Bay and is designed to be used in other port locations around the United States.
“We have been developing a strong relationship with CBI over the past 20 years and these collaborative efforts can serve as a model for other state and federal partnerships,” said Richard Edwing, director of CO-OPS.
CBI and CO-OPS began collaborating in 1988 when CO-OPS entered into an agreement with the Texas General Land Office and the CBI to establish a network of water level stations installed and operated following NOAA standards. - Eric Johnson