Executive Summary

BACKGROUND

The economic vitality of the United States depends on growing trade, both domestic and international. Foreign trade in particular is of increasing importance. The overwhelming portion of foreign trade moves by water through major seaports on all U.S. coasts. It is, therefore, critical that U.S. ports and waterways foster U.S. economic growth and affirm the position of the U.S. in world trade by ensuring safe and efficient transit for vessels and meeting the demands for the smooth flow of goods.

The United States does not have a centralized, national management structure for ports and waterways, which are remarkably diverse in terms of geography and environmental conditions, the vessel traffic they serve, and the variety of services they provide. Ports must provide efficient, rapid turnaround capabilities to accommodate expanding trade and the increasing size and speed of oceangoing ships, a growing proportion of which are foreign. Many U.S. ports must also handle a large volume of coastal and inland traffic.

Stakeholders in safe and efficient maritime transportation are diverse. The activities that take place in ports and connecting waterways affect practically every citizen. The major categories of stakeholders include federal agencies, commercial groups, state and local groups, and public and community groups. All stakeholders share the following goals:

  • ensuring safety, protecting the environment, reducing the costs of accidents, and promoting law enforcement and national security

  • moving vessels and cargo in and out of ports efficiently under all conditions

  • ensuring a smooth flow of goods from one mode of transport to another to save time and reduce costs

  • fostering economic growth, creating jobs and prosperity in the process

Navigation information systems, such as vessel traffic services (VTS), can contribute to the achievement of these goals if vision, leadership, resources, and state-of-the-art technology are combined. This interim report by the Committee on Maritime Advanced Information Systems addresses issues surrounding navigation information systems in general but particularly the U.S. Coast Guard's VTS-2000 program, under which new or upgraded VTS systems would be installed in as many as 17 ports.

Navigation Information Systems Needs and Solutions

A wide variety of navigation information systems are already being used to foster safe and efficient vessel transits in U.S. ports. The fundamental system essential to all classes of mariners encompasses the buoys, lights, and ranges operated and maintained by the Coast Guard. Combined with nautical charts, notices to mariners, and other primary data about waterways which are still delivered primarily in paper form, these constitute the basic information essential for navigation. A final component is a ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communications system, which is essential for the adequate exchange of data among waterway users and managers.

Some additional data can now be provided in electronic form using advanced technology, which is more accurate and reliable. New systems include satellite-based positioning systems and electronic charts, which are now available in various forms and will probably become standard in years to come. In selected ports, real-time water levels, currents, and other data now can be delivered electronically.

Although some users and providers of navigation information cooperate and share data, no central entity is responsible for management or control of port-specific or national information on vessel movements or cargo. Furthermore, because of gaps in the deployment of navigation information systems, information is not always available to users who need it. Evidence of uneven deployment is largely anecdotal, based in part on outreach workshops and site visits conducted by the committee. The evidence indicates that, despite the substantial efforts of federal agencies that maintain navigation information systems and services, and despite recent



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VESSEL NAVIGATION AND TRAFFIC SERVICES FOR SAFE AND EFFICIENT PORTS AND WATERWAYS: Interim Report Executive Summary BACKGROUND The economic vitality of the United States depends on growing trade, both domestic and international. Foreign trade in particular is of increasing importance. The overwhelming portion of foreign trade moves by water through major seaports on all U.S. coasts. It is, therefore, critical that U.S. ports and waterways foster U.S. economic growth and affirm the position of the U.S. in world trade by ensuring safe and efficient transit for vessels and meeting the demands for the smooth flow of goods. The United States does not have a centralized, national management structure for ports and waterways, which are remarkably diverse in terms of geography and environmental conditions, the vessel traffic they serve, and the variety of services they provide. Ports must provide efficient, rapid turnaround capabilities to accommodate expanding trade and the increasing size and speed of oceangoing ships, a growing proportion of which are foreign. Many U.S. ports must also handle a large volume of coastal and inland traffic. Stakeholders in safe and efficient maritime transportation are diverse. The activities that take place in ports and connecting waterways affect practically every citizen. The major categories of stakeholders include federal agencies, commercial groups, state and local groups, and public and community groups. All stakeholders share the following goals: ensuring safety, protecting the environment, reducing the costs of accidents, and promoting law enforcement and national security moving vessels and cargo in and out of ports efficiently under all conditions ensuring a smooth flow of goods from one mode of transport to another to save time and reduce costs fostering economic growth, creating jobs and prosperity in the process Navigation information systems, such as vessel traffic services (VTS), can contribute to the achievement of these goals if vision, leadership, resources, and state-of-the-art technology are combined. This interim report by the Committee on Maritime Advanced Information Systems addresses issues surrounding navigation information systems in general but particularly the U.S. Coast Guard's VTS-2000 program, under which new or upgraded VTS systems would be installed in as many as 17 ports. Navigation Information Systems Needs and Solutions A wide variety of navigation information systems are already being used to foster safe and efficient vessel transits in U.S. ports. The fundamental system essential to all classes of mariners encompasses the buoys, lights, and ranges operated and maintained by the Coast Guard. Combined with nautical charts, notices to mariners, and other primary data about waterways which are still delivered primarily in paper form, these constitute the basic information essential for navigation. A final component is a ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communications system, which is essential for the adequate exchange of data among waterway users and managers. Some additional data can now be provided in electronic form using advanced technology, which is more accurate and reliable. New systems include satellite-based positioning systems and electronic charts, which are now available in various forms and will probably become standard in years to come. In selected ports, real-time water levels, currents, and other data now can be delivered electronically. Although some users and providers of navigation information cooperate and share data, no central entity is responsible for management or control of port-specific or national information on vessel movements or cargo. Furthermore, because of gaps in the deployment of navigation information systems, information is not always available to users who need it. Evidence of uneven deployment is largely anecdotal, based in part on outreach workshops and site visits conducted by the committee. The evidence indicates that, despite the substantial efforts of federal agencies that maintain navigation information systems and services, and despite recent

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VESSEL NAVIGATION AND TRAFFIC SERVICES FOR SAFE AND EFFICIENT PORTS AND WATERWAYS: Interim Report advances in technology, deficiencies at U.S. ports range from outdated charts to inadequate vessel traffic management. Advanced information delivery services are of little value if the underlying data are inaccurate or unreliable. Some of these underlying data are in question now. State-of-the-art components and systems are available to meet or exceed most functional requirements. These systems are accurate, reliable, and adaptable. In other words, funding and institutional issues, not technology, are the limiting factors in the implementation of improved navigation information systems. The institutional issues include bringing all vital interest groups together, providing responsible leadership, and fostering a consensus on needs and mechanisms for funding and management. Existing Vessel Traffic Services Currently, VTS and related information systems in the United States are federal, federal/private, private, or port authority operations. The Coast Guard has installed and operated VTS systems in a number of major U.S. ports and paid for them with appropriated federal funds. The eight systems currently operating are located in Puget Sound (Washington), New York/New Jersey, Houston/Galveston, San Francisco, Prince William Sound (Alaska), Berwick Bay (Louisiana), St. Mary 's River (Michigan), and Louisville (Kentucky). Users of these systems report varying levels of satisfaction. Some assert that VTS systems provide few benefits, while others say they are essential to safe navigation. In general, the committee found that Coast Guard-operated VTS systems are well managed and make a significant contribution to port safety. In some ports, private entities have deployed VTS-like systems. The most prominent of these are in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (LA/LB) and the Delaware River and Bay. The LA/LB system, authorized by state legislation, is managed by the local Marine Exchange and is manned by both the Marine Exchange and the Coast Guard, both of which have agreements with the state. The Marine Exchange is the legislatively authorized agent of the state of California (which, by statute, has addressed the issue of liability) and collects the tariffs authorized by the ports. The funds are then transmitted to the state to pay for the Coast Guard billets, which make up half of each operating shift. The Coast Seventeen major U.S. ports designated in the Coast Guard VTS-2000 program.

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VESSEL NAVIGATION AND TRAFFIC SERVICES FOR SAFE AND EFFICIENT PORTS AND WATERWAYS: Interim Report Major components of a typical advanced VTS installation. Guard has an interagency agreement with the state to ensure funding and clarify the conditions under which operation of the VTIS is carried out. This agreement was authorized by the Coast Guard appropriation bill. The Coast Guard provides half of the staff, which means it has the authority of the captain of the port, which can be exercised in an emergency. The Delaware Bay system is operated by local pilots, and cost are recovered through increased pilot charges to vessels. This system is fully private and does not have legal authority to mandate participation or to direct traffic. These and other private systems usually satisfy the needs of the operators and users who established the system, but most of them provide limited coverage, and they may not fully serve the needs of the public. 1 Fully private operators do not have legal authority to intervene in emergencies, as 1   This committee finding is supported by comparisons of the capabilities of specific private systems with international guidelines for VTS and by input from stakeholders, such as environmental and harbor safety organizations.

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VESSEL NAVIGATION AND TRAFFIC SERVICES FOR SAFE AND EFFICIENT PORTS AND WATERWAYS: Interim Report Marine Exchange VTIS Center in Los Angeles/Long Beach the Coast Guard does. There is also widespread concern among private operators about the potential tort liability associated with providing information or direction that could be implicated in vessel accidents. This concern has often been advanced as a reason fully private systems are unworkable, but the states of California and Delaware have addressed the liability issue in separate legislation. The committee could not locate any comprehensive data that could be used to quantify improvements in safety and efficiency provided by VTS and VTS-like systems. However, there is anecdotal evidence of the utility of these systems in averting accidents and saving lives. It is interesting to note that the benefits of VTS are accepted as obvious in certain foreign ports. A committee work group visited the ports of London (United Kingdom), Rotterdam (Netherlands), and the Elbe River (Germany). Although formal cost-benefit analyses were not available, VTS systems enable the Rotterdam and German ports to stay open on many days when they otherwise would be closed. The managers of these systems stated that improved safety and efficiency were obvious benefits and that formal analysis was not necessary. In general, the history of VTS development in the United States is dominated by public concern about oil spills and tanker accidents. These problems led to national legislation requiring studies of port safety and supporting the development of VTS. Consequently, the available data and analyses are focused mostly on the risk of tanker accidents, which is reflected in references to tanker problems and the discussions of tanker accidents in this report. The committee recognizes that other benefits of VTS are also important and encourages further analyses of the improvements to overall safety and efficiency they can provide. Perspectives on VTS-2000 The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-380) required the Coast Guard to investigate the risk of oil spills in all U.S. ports, estimate the number of (oil spill) accidents that could be avoided with improved VTS, and implement a nationwide program for improving or implementing VTS systems. The resulting program is VTS-2000. If VTS-2000 is implemented as planned, then the estimated total development and installation costs will be between $260 and $310 million in FY 1993 dollars. The estimated annual operating cost for the complete 17-port system is $42 million. The difficulty of obtaining federal funding at these levels in an era of tight budgets has prompted the administration, the U.S. Congress, and others to question the extent and cost effectiveness of the program as well as the viability of current funding plans. Private initiatives that have established user fees to recover costs, like the one in LA/LB, have been held up as alternatives. Although the Coast Guard has yet to design VTS-2000 systems for specific ports, the maritime industry, port managers, vessel operators, and other interested parties already have strong opinions about how the program should be implemented and alternative approaches that may serve their needs and ensure safe and efficient maritime transportation:

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VESSEL NAVIGATION AND TRAFFIC SERVICES FOR SAFE AND EFFICIENT PORTS AND WATERWAYS: Interim Report Local users in many ports believe VTS-2000 goes beyond their needs. The VTS-2000 program, as currently structured, will not fulfill the most urgent needs, such as improving basic navigation safety in some ports. If local stakeholders will be required to pay user fees, they demand more involvement in VTS design and procurement than in the past. Although the Coast Guard conducted an outreach program to determine VTS-2000 requirements, many do not feel their concerns were heard. In other words, many local stakeholders say the federal government should fully fund VTS systems. If that is not possible, some local users may tolerate paying modest user fees, but this would increase the need for a partnership approach to development and implementation of the system. CONCLUSIONS The VTS-2000 program originated in response to a congressional mandate following the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident and subsequent oil spill in Alaska. But the context in which VTS-2000 is being carried out has changed since the program was designed. Efforts to reduce the federal budget and the role of the federal government have become major items on the national agenda. Many policy makers now advocate shifting responsibility for programs like VTS from the national to the state or local level. Therefore, it now appears that justifications for a fully national system with complete federal funding cannot be sustained in the future. Given the importance of ports and waterways to U.S. trade and economic prosperity, and the persistent risk of maritime accidents involving casualties and environmental damage, there is significant public interest in ensuring the safety and efficiency of maritime transportation through Coast Guard missions addressing port safety and security, maritime law enforcement, and search and rescue operations. The committee concludes that there is a compelling national interest in protecting the environment and in providing safe and efficient ports and waterways. This interest serves the purposes of ensuring national security, enhancing public safety, facilitating commerce, and fostering environmental protection. The public interest in safety and environmental protection is especially important. Efficiency, which is of some national interest economically, may be of greater concern to the commercial sector. Many factors contribute to the safety and efficiency of maritime transportation. Chief among these factors is the availability of accurate and reliable navigation information. The committee concludes that environmental protection, safety, and the efficiency of ports and waterways depend on the accuracy and availability of traditional and advanced navigation aids, nautical charts, and real-time Coast Guard VTS Control Center in New York

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VESSEL NAVIGATION AND TRAFFIC SERVICES FOR SAFE AND EFFICIENT PORTS AND WATERWAYS: Interim Report hydrographic and meteorological data. When multiple vessels are involved, safety and efficiency also depend on effective waterways management, adequate electronic communications, and local knowledge of the kind typically supplied by pilots. In addition, the committee concludes that there are deficiencies in the accuracy and availability of many essential types of navigation information provided by federal agencies. VTS can enhance maritime safety and efficiency by collecting and managing the most reliable navigation information, monitoring and evaluating vessel traffic and potentially dangerous traffic situations, and providing accurate and timely information to mariners. When dangerous situations arise, the Coast Guard has the authority to impose traffic controls in areas covered by VTS to ensure safety of life and prevent accidents and pollution. The committee concludes that VTS can be a significant factor in enhancing the safety and efficiency of ports and waterways when used in conjunction with other traditional aids to navigation and hydrographic and other information. The public derives substantial national benefits from safe and efficient ports and waterways, and VTS systems can contribute to safety and efficiency. Therefore, the committee concludes that the implementation, function, and role of VTS systems are integral to the Coast Guard's federal mission of safeguarding the nation's ports and waterways. However, VTS-2000 was developed in a different political atmosphere than exists today. Possible user fees have changed the attitudes of waterway users toward the perceived scope and costs of VTS-2000. Progress now depends on achieving better understanding and building partnerships among federal agencies and port and waterway users at the local level. Private support has been suggested as a means of reducing federal costs for VTS-2000. The existence of private VTS-like systems indicates that user fees are feasible and acceptable to local maritime communities under certain circumstances. A key requirement for acceptance of user fees is some measure of local control. However, local funding of VTS may not be possible in many ports, primarily because the amount of revenues required and the willingness to pay could vary significantly. The committee concludes that there are significant unresolved issues associated with competitiveness, both domestic and international, that are affected by port-specific fees. User fees to pay for VTS systems would be affected by the capital and operating costs of the system, which would differ widely among ports depending on geography and port-specific needs. In addition, there are major impediments to nonfederal development of VTS-like systems. These impediments include the significant capital needed to acquire and install VTIS systems and the potential liability inuring to private operators. Significant concerns could also be raised about the uniformity and consistency of systems, which need to be established through federal standards. Given the difficulty of implementing VTS-2000 in a cost effective and timely manner and meeting the myriad needs of local users, it may be useful to consider ways of reducing front-end costs and implementing the program in stages. With careful consideration of port-specific needs through continued Coast Guard interaction with local stakeholders, the 17 ports on the current list could be divided into two categories. The high-priority group could include ports with the greatest safety needs, if those needs could best be satisfied by VTS. This group might include four to six ports, roughly equivalent to the current list of four ports scheduled for implementation by the year 2000 and the three scheduled for implementation in 2001. Justifying the selection of these ports would depend on the results of ongoing re-evaluations of the current and specific needs of each port by the Coast Guard. The second group could include ports with less urgent needs where VTS or, perhaps, another, more appropriate navigation information system could be implemented at a later date. This approach might reduce the overall capital costs of VTS-2000. To support this approach and justify continued federal funding, the minimum scope and service level of VTS to ensure safety must be established. The Coast Guard would need to establish a baseline for each port slated to receive a VTS-2000 system, as well as for each existing VTS and VTS-like system, to ensure minimum safety levels nationwide. The committee concludes that local institutions, in partnership with federal agencies, could introduce new strategies for implementing VTS-2000. Acceptance of VTS-2000 could be promoted by shifting the focus to establishing a generic baseline system for a small number of high priority ports to meet national safety needs and Coast Guard mission requirements. Recommendation 1. The Coast Guard should take the lead in promoting public/private partnerships for the acquisition and operation of VTS systems in specific ports. Partnerships have already evolved in certain localities, and the Coast Guard has adequate experience working with the maritime community and other stakeholders to evaluate problems, identify needs, and improve navigation safety. Organizations like harbor safety committees already exist in some ports and could help develop the partnerships. Recommendation 2. The Coast Guard should use public/ private partnerships to help establish local institutions for implementing local VTS systems. These institutions must bring all parties together and establish specific requirements for each port. They must also seek acceptance from all stakeholders for specific designs, operational approaches, and funding schemes. Recommendation 3. The Coast Guard should select ports with the greatest safety needs for VTS and identify a minimum generic, baseline system that meets national safety

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VESSEL NAVIGATION AND TRAFFIC SERVICES FOR SAFE AND EFFICIENT PORTS AND WATERWAYS: Interim Report needs as well as Coast Guard mission requirements for each port. A second group of ports should be selected, for a phase 2 program, and a similar baseline system should be defined for this group. Funding for both capital and operating costs for the baseline systems should be the responsibility of the Coast Guard and should be incorporated into long-range funding plans. Recommendation 4. Each port, through a public/private partnership, should apply to the Coast Guard for enhancements beyond the generic system that would provide economic and other benefits to users. The application should include proposals for funding. Funding for enhancements should be the responsibility of local partnerships. Applications may also be used to justify or modify the priority status of ports. Recommendation 5. The Coast Guard should examine its existing VTS as well as private VTIS and enhancements in order to upgrade all systems to meet national safety needs and Coast Guard mission requirements. Upgrades required to meet national safety needs should be funded by the Coast Guard. Enhancements beyond the generic baseline system should be funded by the local entities in the partnership. COST-SHARING OPTIONS Although the national interest in safe and efficient ports and waterways justifies federal funding for generic VTS systems that meet national safety needs and Coast Guard mission requirements, the committee recognizes that full federal funding may not be feasible in the future. Private support can best be encouraged by negotiations to determine a cost-sharing formula acceptable to local stakeholders. The committee identified three general cost-sharing mechanisms that could be used as a basis for developing a more specific formula. Each mechanism would provide for both federal funding and local user funding, with specific shares to be determined by the relative benefits derived by each party. Some mechanisms would make use of existing institutions and Importance of Public/Private Partnerships Both public and private stakeholders have a role in the development and implementation of navigation information systems. The Coast Guard needs to maintain the legal authority to ensure the safe operation of ports and waterways, and private users need to be involved in development and operation of local VTS. The utility of all types of navigational information systems depends on (a) recognition of needs and (b) mechanisms for cooperation among users and stakeholders. Although the Coast Guard has consulted with local stakeholders in the past, we need true federal/local partnerships, similar to the ones in LA/LB and some foreign ports. Local stakeholder groups, such as port authorities and harbor safety committees, need to be identified and should work with the Coast Guard to make decisions. Federal/local partnerships can foster the development of a consensus on local needs and establish institutions to identify, design, acquire, implement, and operate the most urgently needed systems. authorities, but others would require establishing new authorities and, possibly, legislation. All of them would require the establishment of local partnerships to facilitate implementation. Any one of the three could be selected and applied to fit a specific situation. The options include (1) establishing new or using existing national trust funds, (2) using federal grants combined with local cost-sharing measures, and (3) imposing local user fees to supplement federal funding.