New NOAA Ocean Observing System Improves Safety and Efficiency of Ships at the Sabine-Neches Waterway in Texas

May 21, 2010

New NOAA PORTS system allows mariners to get free real-time oceanic and atmospheric data from numerous sensors at various points along the Sabine-Neches waterway.

New NOAA PORTS system allows mariners to get free real-time oceanic and atmospheric data from numerous sensors at various points along the Sabine-Neches waterway.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Mariners can now get free real-time information on water level, wind, and weather conditions for the Sabine-Neches Waterway of Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, from a new NOAA ocean observing system.

The Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®) at Sabine-Neches provides observations of tides, currents, water and air temperature, barometric pressure, and wind speed, gusts and direction through an easy-to-use Web portal and by phone at 888-257-1859 (toll free).

Administered by the NOAA Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, PORTS can significantly reduce the risk of vessel groundings and increase the amount of cargo moved though the waterway by enabling mariners to safely utilize every inch of dredged channel depth. The system also allows large ships to time their arrivals and departures more efficiently.

“PORTS provides mariners from near and far with the tools – and the confidence – needed to move valuable goods through this critical waterway,” said NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco. “NOAA is committed to working with the Sabine-Neches maritime community to provide quality tools and services to ensure the continued flow of commerce.”

With PORTS, the Sabine-Neches Waterway will be better equipped to safely and efficiently move commodities like liquefied natural gas safely and efficiently.

With PORTS, the Sabine-Neches Waterway will be better equipped to safely and efficiently move commodities like liquefied natural gas safely and efficiently.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

In addition to the Sabine-Neches PORTS, 19 other PORTS are located throughout the nation. Estimates of economic benefits attributed to the systems range from $7 million per year for Tampa Bay to $16 million per year for Houston-Galveston, according to studies conducted in those regions.

“The Sabine-Neches PORTS array has given our local maritime industry a great increase in situational awareness,” said Clayton Henderson, assistant general manager for the Sabine Neches Navigation District. “Knowing the currents and water levels ahead of arrival greatly increases efficiency and safety for our mariners."

Governed by the Jefferson County Waterway and Navigation District, the Sabine-Neches Waterway is a set of interlocking river channels and canals extending from the Gulf of Mexico to Port Arthur, Beaumont, and Orange, Texas. The principal cargoes moving through the waterway’s ports are crude oil, petroleum products, and chemicals. 

The Sabine-Neches Waterway also is home to one the nation’s newest liquefied natural gas terminals, making it a key transit point for crude ships bringing oil to refineries. The waterway holds 45 percent of the nation’s liquefied natural gas import capacity, and it supplies 20 percent of U.S. gasoline east of the Rockies. With PORTS, the Sabine-Neches Waterway will be better equipped to safely and efficiently move commodities through its waterways. 

Real-time ocean conditions generated by PORTS are used by local officials, as well as port and marine pilot organizations, to determine if the waterway is open and safe for navigation. The newly installed PORTS at Sabine-Neches has already shown its value as a decision support tool. Datarom the PORTS allowed an early reopening of the waterway following a January 2010 ship collision. More recently, during a low tide event at the waterway in March, real-time water level data alerted mariners of extremely low water levels. With confirmation from the new PORTS data, the Sabine Pilotsut in a 37-foot vessel restriction (down from 40 feet) and held some ships offshore - an unprecedented move to for safe navigation thus preventing potential groundings.

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