Earlier today, with little fanfare, an important development in the more than fifty year history of navigating the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System was announced. The development announced today will have a substantial positive impact on the safety, reliabilty, efficiency and environmental protection aspects of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System.
The U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) and the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) announced the release of a technical-sounding, "Implementatoin Specification for a Draught Information System (DIS) for the St. Lawrence Seaway". Despite the yawn-producing title, the document deescribes a system to aid mariners in understanding to characteristics of their vessel in a hydrodynamic environment that is likely to result in mazimizing cargo carrying capacity while reducing the risk of groundings and similar incidents that can cause vessel and Seaway System damage and delay.
Specifically, today's notice says that the "Implementation Specification describes the functionality and interfaces to a system which utilizes water level, channel type and bathymetry, and vessel characteristics, speed and dynamics to determine current and predicted under keel clearance to promote safe navigation and maximize the use of the water column. This specification also defines the information content for each of the bathymetry and water level input data sets. It includes a set of squat formulas for different vessel types and channel configurations. These may be extended by the addition of supplementary information to the specification."
What this means for ship owners and ship operators, especially those who use or plan to use the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System often is that the Seaway entities will use the latest available science to determine the maximum draght to which a vessel can safely load when planning to navigate the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Previous efforts to determine maximum vessel draught were built on a "lowest common denominator" model that forced a one-size-fits-all model on all vessels transiting the Seaway System. First conceived in the 1990's, the multi-year, cooperative, binational DIS project is part of an ongoing effort on behalf of the Seaway organizations to make substantial technological improvements in Seaway navigation.