New technology may improve safety, productivity on Seaway
Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 2:05 pm

New technology can enhance safety on the St. Lawrence Seaway by giving mariners real time information on current and projected distances between a vessel’s keel and river bottoms, according to the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

Known as the Draft Information System (DIS), the new on-board technology will reduce the potential for groundings and allow ships to carry more cargo by better taking advantage of the available water levels.

“This is an important improvement in maritime safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This new technology will increase the safety of vessels traveling through the Saint Lawrence Seaway while increasing their productivity.”

DIS is an optional requirement, said USDOT. But they emphasize that, ships with DIS can travel the Seaway more safely with more cargo, at a draft of up to three inches more than the published maximum. Depending on the commodity carried, an additional three inches of draft could mean transporting as much as 360 additional metric tons per voyage.

The Seaway has long required a minimum safety margin between the ship’s keel and river bottom, or “under-keel clearance,” that vessels must maintain while transiting the waterway. The new DIS technology provides a more precise way of measuring that clearance, and accurate data on river bottom contours and water levels along with the vessel’s speed and heading. As a result, mariners will have a greater ability to implement effective course changes or other required reactions in transit.