Charting a safe course through the Great Lakes-Seaway navigation system has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Improvements to communication systems, better weather forecasting, and strides in technology make marine shipping one of the safest transportation alternatives.
Automatic Identification System (AIS)
To maintain a safe waterway, all commercial vessels operating on the Great Lakes-Seaway system are required to deploy AIS technology. Using satellite global positioning system (GPS) technology with ship-based transponders, and land-based receivers, AIS is able to indicate the exact location of each vessel. Such information is critical to improving safe navigation and avoiding collisions, allowing ships to electronically see each other – even when visibility is poor due to weather. The system broadcasts other critical information such as vessel identity, type, course, and speed, enabling the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards and other authorities to improve situational awareness to better monitor and manage the waterway.
Most vessels operating on the Great Lakes have installed electronic navigation chart systems. These digital waterway maps display local geography and other critical information on a electronic screen and serve as an alternative to paper nautical charts. This advanced technology enables multiple layers of information to be shown in real-time, including vessel position, channel location, water depth, aids to navigation, etc. By utilizing this technology navigators can enhance safe operation of commercial vessels.
Vessel Traffic Control
In several areas of the Great Lakes-Seaway system, vessel traffic control centers monitor and coordinate ship activity. Traffic on the St. Lawrence River is coordinated by centers in Montreal, and Massena, New York. Traffic on Lake Ontario, the Welland Canal, and portions of Lake Erie is coordinated by a control center in St. Catherines, Ontario. Additional control centers are located in Sarnia, Ontario and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Vessel Traffic Control is a fully-integrated navigation system, with all three vessel traffic control sectors seamlessly linked with one another, allowing for the safe and efficient movement of ships.