Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oakland Port Installs 1st West Coast Visibility Sensor

The Port of Oakland has become the first port on the West Coast to embrace FS11 Vaisala visibility sensor technology. It recently placed a maritime visibility sensor at its Ben E. Nutter Terminal at Berth 38.

The Vaisala FS11 is an instrument that uses forward-scattering technology to measure the amount of scattering of an infrared beam in a small volume of air between a transmitter and receiver, resulting in an extrapolated visibility at a set distance out to 5.4 nautical miles. This is accomplished by the transmitter making continuous infrared light pulses.

The instrument only captures the visibility at that single height and location, but not small-scale differences in the air mass, such as patchy fog or low-lying fog.

Mobile Bay, Alabama is the only other major port in the nation to install visibility sensors.

“One of the benefits of this new sensor technology is that it provides good data and consistent results without being dependent on human observation,” Port of Oakland Acting Maritime Director Jean Banker said. “The equipment is also designed to be operationally reliable even during the harshest weather.”

The Nutter terminal is operated by Seaside Transportation Services and home to Evergreen Marine Corp.

Port of Oakland Chief Wharfinger Chris Peterson called the installation the culmination of a two-year project that included the port, the San Francisco Harbor Safety Committee, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco, Marine Exchange of SF Bay, NOAA’s National Weather Service Office Monterey and NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. “Adding this new capability provides more information to the San Francisco Bar Pilots, the Coast Guard and other mariners on the bay for safer and more efficient navigation of ships in difficult and changing weather conditions, in particular foggy days on the bay,” Peterson said.

Real-time data from the sensors are disseminated on NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services website: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/websites/supp_coops.html.