Of Sturgeon and Ships

The U.S. Coast Guard maintains an archive of historical vessel position movements, collected through the Nationwide Automatic Identification System (NAIS). Originally designed to improve maritime safety and security, these historical vessel position records have proven to be a valuable resource for a variety of engineers and researchers studying the aquatic world. For example, fishery resource managers with the responsibility of improving multiple sturgeon populations have used historical data from the NAIS to evaluate where fish and vessels might interact. Before sturgeon populations crashed in the late 1800s, harvests along the Atlantic coast were measured in thousands of tons. If sturgeon populations rebound to their historical levels it could mean the renaissance of a commercial and recreational fishery that has been lost for generations. Understanding where sturgeon might be at risk from vessel strikes or propeller cuts is just one small part of a larger conservation and recovery effort around the country. The public can request historical vessel position data through the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center (NAVCEN) online portal. To learn more about sturgeon and efforts to rebuild fish stocks visit the NOAA Fisheries website.

Vessel track lines, James River, VA Vessel tracks through the James River, Virginia. Processed using the AISAP tool developed by USACE-ERDC.


U.S. Coast Guard NAIS and Data Requests: https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/
E. J. Hilton, B. Kynard, M. T. Balazik, A. Z. Horodysky, and C. B. Dillman. 2016. Review of the biology, fisheries, and conservation status of the Atlantic Sturgeon, (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus Mitchill, 1815). Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 32: 30-66.

NOAA Fisheries, Species Directory, Atlantic Sturgeon: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/atlantic-sturgeon

Data.Gov Links related to this topic:

Green Sturgeon Acoustic Monitoring: https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/green-sturgeon-acoustic-monitoring

White Sturgeon Distribution, Pacific Northwest: https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/white-sturgeon-distribution-pacific-northwest-updated-march-2006

USGS National Hydrography Dataset: https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/usgs-national-hydrography-dataset-nhd-downloadable-data-collection-national-geospatial-data-as

Safety at Sea – U.S. Coast Guard Marine Casualty and Pollution Data for Researchers

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is responsible for investigating reportable marine casualties, accidents, and serious marine incidents.  The relevant mission statement and specific regulations can be found on the USCG Investigations Division homepage.  After an incident has been reported, it is entered into a national database of all marine casualty and pollution incidents.  These important historical records can then be accessed by researchers interested in understanding maritime safety, accident prevention, or trends in certain types of maritime incidents through time.  Other agencies interested in maritime transportation performance measures rely on the USCG data to examine incident trends on U.S. waterways.  Files for the Marine Casualty and Pollution Data for Researchers datasets can be downloaded directly from the U.S. Coast Guard Homeport website by following the drop-down menu options on the homepage Missions: Investigations: Marine Casualty Pollution Investigations page at https://homeport.uscg.mil/missions/investigations/marine-casualty-pollution-investigations.


As described by the USCG, “the Marine Casualty and Pollution Data files provide details about marine casualty and pollution incidents investigated by Coast Guard Offices throughout the United States. The database can be used to analyze marine accidents and pollution incidents by a variety of factors including vessel or facility type, injuries, fatalities, pollutant details, location, and date.  The data collection period began in 1982 for marine casualties and 1973 for polluting incidents, and is ongoing. Documentation includes entity and attribute descriptions along with suggested solutions to general marine pollution, vessel casualty, and personnel injury and death questions.”

Visitors to the USCG Homeport data download site should note that there are three files available fore download, but it is the second file on the list (named MISLE_DATA.zip) that contains all available marine casualty data from January 2002 – July 2015.  The files extracted from MISLE_DATA.zip can be opened with most standard spreadsheet editing software programs.

Source: USCG Marine Casualty and Pollution Data, https://homeport.uscg.mil/missions/investigations/marine-casualty-pollution-investigations


Data.Gov Links Related to this topic:

USCG Marine Safety Information Data, https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/marine-safety-information-data

USCG Facility Pollution Database, https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/uscg-facility-pollution


U.S. Coast Guard closed and unresolved incident investigations, 2002 - 2015 (part year)
U.S. Coast Guard closed and open incident investigations, 2002 through 2015 (part year).



By the numbers: port statistics for some of the largest U.S. ports

As intermodal connectors for domestic and international freight, our nation’s ports serve a critical role in numerous supply chains and the national economy. In recognition of this importance, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (P.L. 114-94; Dec. 4, 2015; 129 Stat. 1312) established a Port Performance Freight Statistics Program within the U.S. Department of Transportation: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The first annual Port Performance Freight Statistics Program report provides descriptive statistics for a group of ports for year 2016, including the top 25 ports in terms of total tonnage, twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), and dry bulk tonnage. The report is available to download at https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/PPFS_Annual_Report.pdf

The 2016 Port Performance report used multiple sources, including public datasets featured on Data.Gov. One foundational dataset used in the report is the total commercial tonnage carried on waterways published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center.

Link to dataset: https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/total-tonnage-foreign-and-domestic-of-commodites-carried-on-commercial-waterways .

Example of cargo movement through a dry bulk cargo port terminal
            Typical infrastructure and cargo flow at a port terminal handling dry bulk cargo, such as coal.

Harvesting Grain Data

Author: Marin Kress, Research Scientist, Engineer Research and Development Center, USACE

This Grain Transportation Report: Rail Deliveries to Port dataset from the USDA provides the total number of rail carloads used in weekly grain shipments traveling to ports in five different regions of the country starting in 1994.  The five regions are Atlantic, East Gulf, Mississippi River, Texas Gulf, and Pacific.  In 2008 the dataset started recording cross border rail shipments in to Mexico.  Included with each record is start-of-week date, end-of-week date, and number week of year (1-52).  For users interested in learning about intermodal freight flows, agricultural exports, and how the marine transportation system supports American farmers this dataset is a great resource.

A glossary of terms used in the file is available from USDA at: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/GTRGlossaryofTerms.pdf

View Dataset link:  http://catalog.data.gov/dataset/grain-transportation-report-table-3

Reference: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/transportation-analysis/gtr

A Decade of Shipment Tonnage and Value Summaries