Enhanced Vessel Traffic Control
The Great Lakes-Seaway System uses one of the most technologically advanced vessel traffic control systems in the world - the Automatic Identification System (AIS).
Adopted by the St. Lawrence Seaway in 2002, AIS utilizes Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and VHR digital radio transceivers to share vital marine navigation data from ship-to-ship, shore-to-ship, and ship-to-shore in real time. Vessels equipped with AIS transponders can transmit and receive data with the Seaway's vessel traffic control centers and with other ships equipped with AIS transponders. Using AIS, vessels can receive real-time data on ship lockage order, water levels, current, wind speed/direction, and Seaway advisories – all of which can be accessed instantly via an onboard laptop computer.
Improved Incident Avoidance
AIS technology reduces the likelihood of vessel incidents. By transmitting real-time vessel location data, AIS allows a ship's captain to continuously monitor the ship's location relative to the navigation channel, and the shoreline, as well as to other ships. This information lets the captain adjust the vessel's course with precision. In addition, the Seaway's AIS can show a vessel captain where two ships are likely to meet if they remain on their current course headings. With this information a captain can adjust the ship's speed and course in order to maintain a safe distance.
Improved Incident Response Times
The AIS vessel traffic management system can pinpoint the exact location of a grounded vessel. Within seconds of an incident, vital information can be compiled on the vessel's cargo, the water current, weather, and water levels, the pilot on board, and the owner/operator/agent of the ship. Having such information readily available has dramatically improved incident response capabilities.
Improved Underwater Clearance
The ongoing development of draft-optimization navigation technology, which incorporates information from the AIS vessel traffic management system, promises to further enhance vessel safety on the Great Lakes-Seaway System.
By processing information on a vessel's draft (load depth) and speed, as well as water levels (provided through AIS) and using the latest charts, draft-optimization software provides a real-time bathymetric (underwater) view via computer monitors installed on the bridge of the ship. Accurate to within millimeters, the software allows pilots and ship masters to precisely calculate under-keel clearance to ensure safe passage of a vessel and to plan the optimum route for safest passage.