Stories From The Field

Ensuring Safe Anchoring with Vessel Traffic Data in Florida

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Ships often rely on designated anchorage areas as safe places to drop anchor in navigable waterways near ports. Just outside the entrance channel of St. John’s River in Jacksonville, Florida, some ship captains were concerned about the safety of the anchorage areas due to the possible presence of mines dating to World War II. Some captains remained skeptical even though vessels have anchored there for years.


The U.S. Coast Guard and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) navigation manager decided to review existing anchorage areas and propose a new area to address these concerns and improve safety. To ensure input from all interested parties, they organized a stakeholder workshop. Data showing established anchorage areas, pilot boarding areas, locations where vessels most commonly anchor, danger areas, and maintained channels were used to provide context for the current setting. The participants then reviewed Automatic Identification System (AIS), or vessel tracking, data to understand major shipping traffic patterns in relation to current anchorage areas. Participants also reviewed bathymetric data to identify areas that were deep enough for larger vessels to anchor. Based on this analysis, they proposed an anchorage area close to a pilot boarding area that was consistent with current patterns of anchoring and with minimal vessel transits.


Using bathymetry and AIS data, the group was able to shift the proposed anchorage to an area of appropriate depth outside the danger area and away from dense traffic areas, as portrayed in this story map. This final area is currently being reviewed for authorization by the Coast Guard.

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