Captain’s Corner: 21st Century Waterway System

U.S. Coast Guard photo of CAPT Tom Allan taken by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy TamargoThis Captain’s Corner is brought to you by Chief Warrant Officer Mike Tomasi who is the Aids to Navigation (ATON) Officer responsible for the establishment, positioning and maintenance of 1800 fixed and floating federal ATON in Sector Jacksonville’s area of responsibility. As always, if you have recommendations for future topics, we would appreciate your input. See you in the port!
– CAPT Tom Allan

The 21st Century Waterway System

By Chief Warrant Officer Mike Tomasi, USCG Sector Jacksonville

While both cargo and cruise vessels increase size and capabilities, the need for a technology-based navigation system is now. To develop our waterways into a 21st Century system, the Coast Guard, NOAA and the USACOE are currently seeking input from commercial and recreational users to develop a plan to optimize an array of ATON to maximize safe navigation. In doing this, we will create a more efficient mix of electronic navigation (eNAV) and visual ATON, thus creating a modern waterway system.

eNAV is the collection, integration, exchange and analysis of maritime information by electronic means. One way of conveying eNAV is to use a current system in place, such as the National Automatic Identification System (NAIS). This information can be transmitted through AIS in many ways: Real AIS units on buoys, virtual AIS, such as a VTS check-in point on your ECS, and synthetic AIS, which combines both physical and virtual ATON.

Sector Jacksonville was recently approved to test eight synthetic ATON in our area of responsibility, three of which include: St John’s Lighted Buoy STJ, St Mary’s Entrance Light Buoy 16 and Canaveral Harbor Entrance Channel Lighted Buoy 11. We have not received a specific date when these buoys will be synthetic capable, but we will keep port stakeholders advised.

We realize not everyone has an AIS receiver on their vessel. To address this gap, multiple companies have developed smart phone technology allowing boaters access to the eNAV information. As we move forward with eNAV, relying on one method for safe navigation introduces unnecessary risk. For this reason, we will continue to maintain physical ATON for redundancy.

For more information

If you wish to see how e-Navigation is progressing around the world in real time, the IALA e-Navigation Web portal is an excellent source of information.

Or, click for a detailed presentation on eNAV.