The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is asking the U.S. Commerce Department to fund operation and maintenance (O&M) of a system that measures tides and currents this year and include funding in future budgets.
Patrick Foye, the authority's executive director, said in a letter to Commerce Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank
that local sponsors are no longer to sustain the expenditure for the Physical Oceanographic Real Time System (PORTS) that was installed by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) back in the 1990s.
New York has been pressing for permanent funding of PORTS
for several years.
The current funding reserve for the system "will only carry us through March 2013," Foye said. He also noted one of the sensors in the port was damaged during Hurricane Sandy and "remains dark, as there is no funding stream available for repairs to the structure. If any other sensors go dark, they will remain dark since we do not have the money to pay for O&M in the coming year. Ours is not the only port facing PORTS closures."
He said the system is "vital information to not only the harbor pilots moving today's containerships and tankers, but also to other commercial, fishing, and recreational vessels."
Foye said the annual cost of supporting O&M for all PORTS sites is $4 million.
There are 22 PORTS systems listed on NOAA's Website
and information about conditions in each port with a PORTS system is freely available.
The Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey said the local sponsor portion has received congressional support in the past, but added "the main problem is that the item is never included in NOAA’s budget request to the president. We continue to urge that NOAA and the Department of Commerce do so."
The association asked its members to support Foye's request, stating that "for those of you who have services in other ports, note that this issue affects you everywhere."
Supporters of PORTS said these systems can improve safety, provide useful data in the event of an accident such as an oil spill, and potentially reduce shipping costs by allowing ships to load more heavily and know if they can sail to and from berth without waiting for high tide. - Chris Dupin