US $ 1.6 million for a project using ships to collect data on rivers
The federal government is investing $ 1.6 million to help Louisiana develop “smart ports” that will collect data on Mississippi River conditions and traffic from tugs, barges and other vessels, officials said Wednesday.
The SmartPort project is a national first, officials said.
The state is adding $ 1.4 million to the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Agency grant, according to Governor John Bel Edwards and the Gulf Water Institute.
The Water Institute will exploit instruments already present on ships, but now used primarily by individual crews, President and CEO Justin Ehrenwerth said in a telephone interview from Baton Rouge.
It’s like the Waze app for drivers, he said: “you don’t need a new smartphone or new gear, but the data lets you decide the best routes”.
A pilot project was carried out at the Port of New Orleans, using about a dozen tugs from one company.
The Water Institute will use data on the river bottom to predict where silt will collect before it gets in the way.
Ehrenwerth said he understands that ports often use dredges once there is a problem. “The problem with responsiveness is that you waste time, money and burn more fuel,” he said.
Once the forecast is worked out, Louisiana’s eight ports on the Mississippi will get them, he said. After the two years covered by the grants, Ehrenwerth said, they will be asked to pay.
The Water Institute will also develop a resilience plan for each port, adapted from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Port Resilience Index.
An entrepreneur will create a dashboard combining river depth and traffic information with weather, river and traffic data from roads around ports to improve port efficiency, he said.
A SmartPort and Lower Mississippi River Resilience Center will be based at the Water Institute in Baton Rouge.
Ehrenwerth said data from tugs and barges is not as accurate as data from specially designed survey vessels like those belonging to the Army Corps of Engineers, but there is so much that it can be fine-tuned for more. precision.
The idea is that the tug and barge companies will let the Water Institute install a cable or two and a computer application to collect their data in exchange for a much larger view they can get through the project, said. Ehrenwerth.
“Our plan is, according to the shoal forecast, to hire as many tugs and barges as possible. The greater the coverage in a section of the river, the better we will do,” he said.