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NOAA and Partners Provide Real-time Information to Keep Economic Activity Flowing in Port of Jacksonville

The air gap sensor installed on the Dames Point Bridge in Jacksonville, Fla., ensured that Carnival Cruise Lines could continue serving the Port of Jacksonville while the bridge was undergoing repairs. According to a 2009 study completed by Martin Associates, the cruise industry generates more than $67 million in annual economic impact for Northeast Florida.

Our country’s port system is an essential driver of the U.S. economy and for connecting us to the rest of the world.  Every day, U.S. ports and waterways handle millions of tons of domestic and international cargo ranging from agricultural products to heating oil and automobiles.

As demand for U.S. goods and services increases, U.S. ports are responding by implementing innovative technologies. Today, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its local partner, the Jacksonville Marine Transportation Exchange, dedicated the newest Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, or PORTS®, in the country.  

Part of NOAA’s network of observational platforms, PORTS® puts real-time, actionable information, or environmental intelligence, into the hands of people who need it to make informed decisions.

The new Jacksonville PORTS®, the second largest ever established in the system, includes a broad suite of operational sensors with water level, meteorological, visibility, salinity, air gap (under bridge clearance), and tidal currents. These sensors are the new “eyes” for the Port of Jacksonville giving 20/20 vision to port operators, ship captains, shipping companies, and others. Jacksonville PORTS® will provide mariners with better maritime information about currents and water levels so they can navigate more efficiently and safely.

PORTS®, combined with up-to-date nautical charts and precise positioning information, can provide mariners with a clearer picture of the potential dangers in the water.  In addition, as ships increase in size and carry more cargo, PORTS® provides shipping companies with information to ensure they safely enter and exit our ports.

The payoff? One additional foot of draft may account for between $36,000 and $288,000 of increased profit per transit.

Currently, 23 PORTS® systems are located around the U.S., providing critical data for navigational safety of both commercial and recreational users.  Users can access the data from a desktop computer, mobile device, or phone voice system.

The high quality, reliable information provided by PORTS® supports safe navigation and helps port managers balance environmental and economic priorities as maritime activity within a port increases. PORTS® data helps mariners maximize their cargo load while minimizing risks associated with groundings and collisions. Other benefits from PORTS® includes an improved response to distress calls, more effective response to hazardous spills, and better information for coastal management.

This project was administered by the partner, Jacksonville Marine Transportation Exchange, with station installation, operation, and maintenance services provided by Woods Hole Group, Inc. NOAA provided technical guidance during the project and will provide ongoing quality control and dissemination of the data.

As our country’s exports continue to grow, PORTS® facilitates the safe and efficient movement through U.S. seaports, helping to ensure our nation’s economic health and prosperity.

To view the Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) video on the dedication ceremony, please go to

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