Death of the World’s Shortcuts

*This photo has been generated using artificial intelligence. While it may appear realistic, it is important to note that it was not captured by a human photographer.*

Global maritime trade is changing. The Panama Canal is breaking down due to drought, and the Houthis are forcing the world’s largest ships to add days to their transit to avoid the Red Sea chokepoint. While it’s possible to control the drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea, there’s not a lot we can do about the Canal. It just needs to rain. What does this all mean for the maritime industry in the Puget Sound and Gray’s Harbor? It means that if we want things to stay the same, then things are going to have to change. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

Whale detection and monitoring update

We are finally able to see whale sightings within our ship tracking software! This is something we’ve been interested in doing for a long time, and it’s amazing to see on a screen together. We got the data from acartia.io then figured out how to push this into our WebVTS software. Awesome. Obviously, with this, we could simply make callouts directly to ships passing through these sightings. However, a far better solution is to get a machine to automatically detect and monitor then send a message to the vessel directly via AIS transmission (we’re working on it). Right now, most of these sightings are from humans and so subject to human error and estimation. It’s still amazing and powerful, but we’re eyeing the next generation of technology for whale detection and monitoring. If you have a SiiTech login from us, you should be able to see for yourself.
The black dots are gray whale sightings. The triangles are vessels.

National Harbor Safety Committee

This year’s National Harbor Safety Committee meeting is being held in Chicago on March 20-21. I’ve been part of the planning team to bring it together, and it’s looking fantastic. This year the format is nearly all panel discussions, and there are some very experienced and well-respected leaders on these panels. The Commandant of the Coast Guard will be the keynote speaker. You should go.

NWSA dredging to 57′

This must’ve slipped by me when it was announced in December, but I saw the NW Seaport Alliance has signed an agreement to dredge to 57 feet in the Blair Waterway. This is good news in that the largest (over 1600 TEU) ships almost never come here because of lack of US port infrastructure that accommodates the monster container ships. This is good news, but what we really need is a national strategy and investment. These ships are not likely to just come to Tacoma, offload, then return to origination. No, they’ll want to offload in multiple US ports. Without subsequent commitment to port infrastructure along the entire west coast, then most economically impactful ships will continue to bypass.