Improving Port Productivity

Maritime transportation provides the majority of our exports and imports and supports America’s vibrant domestic commerce. Two-thirds of all the goods purchased in the United States are transported by ship.

PORTS platform.

Scientists install water current meters on Coast Guard Buoys in Chesapeake Bay, Md.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

To help ensure safer and more efficient marine transportation, NOAA developed the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, which are near-shore ocean observing platforms tailored to the specific needs of local communities.

Moving Commodities Safely and Efficiently

The PORTS® program helps keep goods, services, and people moving safely and efficiently throughout the 25,000 miles of waterways, ports, and other navigable waters in the U.S.

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 through the port by enabling mariners to safely use every inch of dredged channel depth. The system also enables large ships to time their arrivals and departures more efficiently. This margin of safety opens the limited channel depths available in most U.S. ports to larger commercial ships, allowing port operators to maximize their use. 

PORTS process.

PORTS® real-time data collection and dissemination process.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

This program provides mariners with free, real-time information on currents, water and air temperature, barometric pressure, bridge clearance, and wind speed, gusts and direction through an easy-to-use Web portal. The real-time oceanographic and meteorological information provided by PORTS not only provides commercial and recreational mariners with reliable navigational information for safe and efficient travel but also enhances local weather and coastal marine forecasting.

PORTS is accessible to mariners in a variety of user-friendly formats, including telephone voice response and Internet. This information enables U.S. port authorities and maritime shippers to make sound decisions regarding loading of tonnage (based on available bottom clearance), maximizing loads, and limiting passage times without compromising safety.

Growth of NOAA PORTS

The first PORTS system was installed in Tampa Bay, Fla., in 1991. Today, there are 16 operational systems with the most recent installations in Pascagoula and Gulfport, Miss. Four more systems are scheduled to be complete by 2009 — which is almost a 54 percent increase in the program over the last three years. This growth shows that these systems continue to provide economic benefits to the local maritime community. 

PORTS® has the potential to save the maritime industry millions of dollars by reducing shipping accidents. For more information, visit the PORTS® Web site.