NOAA, Alaskan Council Partner on PORTS System

NOAA and the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council have teamed up to develop the third new Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, or PORTS system, in an effort to boost maritime safety and efficiency off Valdez, Alaska, NOAA announced earlier this month.

The Valdez PORTS, which marks the 36th system in the national network, will encompass a current NOAA National Water Level Observation Network (NWLON) station at Valdez and a pair of new council run-and-maintained meteorological-ocean buoys that size up “tidal currents, wind, air temperature, water temperature and barometric pressure,” according to the agency. One buoy is at the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s Valdez Marine Terminal off Jackson Point. The second buoy is close to the Valdez Duck Flats.

“This new system, and the others like them around the country, reduce ship accidents by more than 50 percent, increase the size of ships that can get in and out of seaports, and reduce traffic delays,” said Steven Thur, acting deputy director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “They also provide real-time, resilience-ready data as coastal conditions rapidly change, potentially threatening our coastal communities.”

The Port of Valdez anticipates a rise in commercial ship traffic and passenger cruise ships are in the next five to 10 years, according to NOAA.

“While the council’s sole purpose for installing these buoys is to promote the environmentally safe operation of the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers, we believe the integration of this metocean data into NOAA’s PORTS will benefit and improve safety for a variety of other maritime users,” said Donna Schantz, executive director for the council. “This is another excellent example of how collaborative science can have wide-ranging impacts for the betterment of all.”

By Sarah Spangler