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Simulator facility studies R.I. vessel traffic

Jan 1, 2003

A typical summer afternoon on Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay involves the usual confluence of activities: commercial shipping traffic, charter and touring vessels, recreational sailing and motorboating, fishing and any number of jet craft buzzing around everyone like mosquitoes. The challenges for anyone navigating the area are the same in all the world's busy ports - managing the operation of a vessel while keeping a proper lookout.

Which is why the Newport-based simulator facility MarineSafety International (MSI) has teamed up with the University of Rhode Island to study the bay to determine how each group can operate safely with others. Over-flight photographs of the bay showed the concentration of underway traffic is as high as 40 vessels per square mile. The project leaders hope to increase understanding of the way vessels interact with one another in the bay - considering its geographic confines - by installing the data on MSI's simulators for future use by area navigators. Most simulators use actual geographic features but import hypothetical traffic scenarios. According to MSI, this is a chance to infuse the reality of a busy day at sea into the simulation process.

The study was originally an effort to examine the impact of a potential LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) site on the bay, and Department of Homeland Security officials hope to use the data to improve reaction time to security threats. The study is being conducted by students from the URI Graduate School of Oceanography.