Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Lockmasters Workshop

By Brian at May 24, 2011 14:11
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The Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Lockmasters Workshop is being held near Pittsburgh Tuesday through Thursday, 24-26 May. This will be an outstanding forum to hear the concerns and needs of the folks actually workng the locks on the inland waterways and Great Lakes.  There are about 45 attendees, most from the Great Lakes and Ohio River area, but also some from other waterways. So far they've covered lock operator training and have an ambitious agenda for the rest of the workshop.

I'll be giving a presentation Wednesday morning on AIS, River Information Services (RIS) and LOMA and I anticipate a lot of questons and hopefully some good discussion. One of our LOMA beta testers will also be presenting his impressions of LOMA, so I look forward to hearing his unvarnished view of how it's working for him.

Here's some information about LOMA:

I can be contacted through blog at maritimespatial dot com for more information and questions.

Change to St. Lawrence Seaway water level AIS message

By Brian at October 13, 2010 17:15
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Below is the text of a recent St. Lawrence Seaway notice regarding a change to their version of an AIS message used to transmit water level information:

AIS Water Level Data Transmission
In support of vessels using a draft optimization tool, mariners are advised that effective October 5, 2010, the water level data being transmitted via AIS will be based on actual readings, as currently done, or based on readings of adjacent sensors, in the event of problems with the primary sensor. The AIS water level message type will display ‘act0’ when the level is from the primary sensor and ‘est1’ when the level is estimated using data from adjacent sensors. The AIS version message has been changed to 4.1 from 4.0 to reflect this modification.
October 5, 2010

The pdf version of the notice is available here.

Here is version 4.0 of the water level message:

It's unclear to me where the "act0" and "est1" indications have been placed, but probably in the "reserved for future use" bits in the Reference Datum or Reserved fields.  The Notice states that "The AIS water level message type will display ‘act0’ when the level is from the primary sensor and ‘est1’ when the level is estimated using data from adjacent sensors."  This is somewhat presumptious - the actual portrayal would depend on how the manufacturer of the navigation system implemented it.

Th St. Lawrence Seaway has been on the cutting edge in the use of AIS since the early 2000's for which they should be commended.  However, they mostly serve a captive audience so they can make these sort of changes fairly easily.  The problem is that the rest of the world is using other messages, and it is unlikely many manufacturers will implement the SLS messages in their software, putting users at a disadvantage if they do sail the Seaway.

There is an international effort to develop and use common AIS messages, and to establish a registry of international and regional messages.  IALA is hosting this registry, which (unfortunately) currently has no submissions.  In the US, we are actively working to clarify the process for development and qualification of new mesages, and plan to submit messages to the IALA registry.  Others, including the SLS are encouraged to submit messages to the registry and are invited to join in or find out more about the US efforts on AIS application specific messages.

Efficiency, reliability and e-Navigation

By Brian at May 16, 2010 11:22
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A spate of articles in the national and Pittsburgh area press (see here and here) highlight the aging infrastructure on the inland waterways.  While this aging infrastructure is "hard" (i.e., concrete and steel) there is a "soft" part of the infrastructure that will be critical in dealing with these problems.  As the hard infrastructure ages and is (hopefully) repaired or replaced, there will be a need to operate the diminished capacity more efficiently and reliably.  e-Navigation has a critical role to play here - in disseminating information about infracture outages (e.g., lock repairs) providing estimates of their resolution and assisting vessels using the waterways in operating more effciently and smoothly.  For example, by making sure shipping companies know about waterways infrastructre restrictions, they can better plan vessel voyages.  Vessel operaors (pilots) will know the status of the waterways they are on, and can adjust speed or operations, saving money (less fuel burned) and time (e.g., accomplishing logistics or repairs without delayin the transit).  And lock operators can perform maintenance and repair based on knowledge of anticipated vessel movements.

Ideally, e-Navigation services will help to keep the hard infrastructure more reliable, providing real-time information on infrastructure usage and condition, allowing better maintenance decisions to be made.  Of course, there has to be a recognition by those controlling the purse strings that "soft" infrastructure - such as that needed for e-Navigation - is still infrastructure, and needs to be supported as much as concrete and steel.

This equipment control console at one of the Pittsburgh area locks (running on a 286 (!) processor):

needs attention as much as this crumbling concrete lock wall:

(We were warned not to walk too close to the edge; and prohibited from venturing onto the guidewall beyond the lock gates)

Dissemination of lock outage information

By Brian at March 31, 2010 12:54
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A Wisconsin (or Minnesota - it's unclear from their website) radio station posts that "the navigation season is being held up on the Mississippi River" due to maintenance at a "lock and dam at St. Louis."  I don't have details which lock and dam - there are two close by, L/D 27 and Mel Price - and I'll try to look at the St. Louis District website and other places and see what's available.

This is just the sort of information that the Lock Operations Management Application (LOMA ) is designed to gather and disseminate to mariners and other waterway users and stakeholders.  LOMA will also assist those scheduling maintenance in determining how they can minimize impact on navigation.  I'll be posting more on LOMA in the near future.

Visit to Mel Price Lock and Dam

By Brian at March 13, 2010 15:15
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While at the Inland Waterways conference last week, we got the chance to visit a couple of the locks near St. Louis.  Here are a few photos from the Mel Price Lock and Dam, a relatively new project completed in the mid 1990s.

A tow approaches the lower entrance to the main lock chamber.  While it appears he is off course, there is actually a current pushing the tow to the left, and he was nicely lined up once in the lock.  This photo was taken from the service walkway that runs atop the dam and over the lock chambers.



Here's the tow in the chamber. This photo was taken from the old lock control room which is now a meeting room/visitor's center.