Great Lakes Shipping Routes Evolve Digitally
113 years ago, the Lake Carriers’ Association developed the world’s first Traffic Separation Scheme. Today, those recommended shipping routes have evolved to meet the demands of electronic navigation and continue to provide routes for safe navigation of some of the largest cargo vessels on the planet.
Recognizing a need to keep the growing maritime trade on the Great Lakes safe, the Lake Carriers’ Association began requiring members of the Association to use recommended east and westbound routes across the Great Lakes. The year was 1907 and various sailing and steamboats plied the Lakes trading commerce while avoiding fog banks and other ships during a time when navigational instruments were limited to sound signals and the sailor’s eyes. The Canadian counterparts to the Lake Carriers’ also found value in the recommended routes and adopted them for their purposes in 1915.
Today, a vast array of technologically advanced navigational equipment is available to the Great Lakes commercial fleet. That doesn’t mean we can remove the yellow line on the highway. However, the line needs to be transferred from paper to computer as the advancement and adoption of electronic navigational charting continues.
Enter, Captain Timothy J. Dayton, Master Mariner. Captain Dayton, a former ship Captain for Interlake Steamship Company, 38-year veteran of the Great Lakes, and volunteer for the Great Lakes Maritime Academy training ship took on the immense task of transferring points on paper to precise Global Positioning System coordinates. “This was a far larger undertaking then I think anyone, including myself, could have imagined. I am pleased to have been able to do this,” Captain Dayton reflected.
The work was coordinated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who will take the updated coordinates and digitally place them onto electronic navigational charts. Cartographers Kathy Carpenter and Kenny Odell, led by the NOAA Great Lakes Navigation Manager, Tom Loeper, still have work to do in order to finalize all the Great Lakes routes. “I am truly impressed by the dedication of the team assembled to complete this extremely important project, I know these routes will continue to keep mariners safe for at least another 100-years,” stated Jim Weakley, President of the Lake Carriers’ Association.
The update to the routes was carefully coordinated with the Chamber of Marine Commerce in Canada making these shipping routes a binational Great Lakes navigation system for the continued safety of commercial shipping.