Electronic navigation is among the most important technological advances in the maritime industry in recent years. An electronic navigation system has been in place between Montreal and the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence since 2008.
This system allows pilots, who board ships starting at Les Escoumins, to access the Canadian Coast Guard’s MARINFO web portal. Pilots have right at their fingertips the most recent operational data, such as the state of the channel, the location of shoals in the navigation channel, notices to shipping, etc.
The laptop also connects with the international AIS (Automatic Identification System) land-ship communication system installed aboard the ship. This system keeps the pilot apprised of the vessel’s exact position at all times, as well as the location of other vessels the area.
AIS also provides real-time information on water levels and tides.
Electronic navigation offers many other safety advantages. Pilots can manoeuvre vessels more easily through sections of the St. Lawrence that are difficult to navigate, and they can better negotiate crossings with other ships where the channel is narrow, in poor weather and when visibility is virtually nil.
One inch can make all the difference
A calculation from the U.S. National Ocean Service clearly shows the importance of water levels. With one more inch of draft, a ship can transport an additional 36 John Deere tractors, 9,600 laptop computers, 358,000 pounds of wheat, or 1,540 55-inch televisions.