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Avanced Nautical Charting and the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®)

NOAA Innovation in Everyday Life

Avanced Nautical Charting and the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®)

As ships become larger and the number of ships transiting our seaports increases, the two constant requirements of safe navigation and efficient vessel movement become increasingly important. The PORTS® program, managed by NOAA's National Ocean Service, provides mariners with direct access to real-time water level, current and wind speed/direction data at locations specifically requested by mariners.

Most conventional tide and tidal current predictions are based solely on astronomical models, which do not take into account the impacts of local weather conditions—which may be substantial. PORTS®, however, provides "actual" tidal and current observations, which often differ significantly from "predicted" values. Specifically, actual tidal water levels often exceed predicted levels by as much as several feet and actual currents may impair safe vessel movements, while predicted current conditions may have indicated otherwise.

Other hazards commonly encountered by ships in seaports include narrow and often difficult to maneuver channels, shallow waters, low bridge underpasses and other nearby moving vessels. Having real-time water level, current, and prevailing wind information allows the mariner to better plan their trip taking into account actual conditions, or even to make a "no-go" decision. 

In addition to enhancing navigation safety, PORTS® improves the efficiency of marine commerce within any given seaport. PORTS® is now also being used to support oil spill response, water quality and ecosystem monitoring, and coastal ocean observations.  Real-time observations from any PORTS® installation are accessible to the public through the PORTS® Internet sites—with data displayed both graphically and in text—and by toll-free phone calls. Professional mariners make use of both methods.

NOAA’s PORTS®, which integrates our extensive charting, weather, and navigation capabilities into a single, easily accessible interface, is used daily around the country by mariners to avoid collisions and groundings, as well as improve the efficiency of commerce.  The product is providing further economic benefits by assisting first responders when there is a hazardous materials spill.  NOAA PORTS® is a truly innovative product for the nation.  The addition of “MyPORTS” which is an application designed to let you create your own customized PORTS pages is a new innovation for delivery of PORTS® data.  By following a few simple steps, mariners are able to create a custom view of the data from any of our PORTS stations!

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