- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

PORT FOURCHON, La. (AP) - A new environmental observation sensor will be installed at Port Fourchon Wednesday to improve navigation safety and increase efficiency for ships.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration manages the system, which uses oceanographic and meteorological sensors to provide mariners with accurate real-time information about environmental conditions and potential dangers in seaports.

Port Fourchon is one of the nation’s busiest energy ports, servicing 90 percent of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico oil and gas industry. The system provides information on water levels, currents, wind speed and direction, air and water temperatures, barometric pressure and salinity.

Port Executive Director Chett Chiasson tells The Courier (https://bit.ly/1EwLW2C) the technology is critical to keeping goods that come through the port safe and protecting the environment from damage caused by an oil spill.

“Because our seaport services so many oil tankers, an accident could have a detrimental impact on the environment in our area,” he said.

The system also provides economic benefits, according to NOAA.

Studies of four ports using the sensor system showed a 50 percent reduction in groundings and $50 million in economic efficiency benefits every year.

Last year, marine cargo activity generated about $4.6 trillion, or about 26 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

“Real-time knowledge of the currents, water levels, winds and density of the water can increase the amount of cargo moved through a port and harbor and enable mariners to safely use available channel depths,” Rich Edwing, NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services director, said in a statement. “Even one additional foot of draft can substantially increase the profit of a shipment.”

The Port of Morgan City, which is a newly established foreign trade destination, joined the system Monday.

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Information from: The Courier, https://www.houmatoday.com

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