The rapid expansion of marine transportation and changes in shipping technologies pose a key challenge to governments in the development and application of global transportation standards, products, and services.
Every year, the Marine Transportation System (MTS) moves $10 trillion tons of cargo and 95 percent of U.S. international trade. In the last 50 years, ships have doubled in length, width, and depth. When transiting a channel, ships may have only inches between their hulls and the channel bottom, or their masts and the bridges above. The potential for serious injury to lives, property, and the environment is compounded by the fact that over half the cargo transported by ships is oil or other hazardous material. By 2020, international maritime trade is expected to double – or even triple – which forecasts tough challenges ahead for the MTS. A major challenge facing the nation is to improve the economic efficiency and competitiveness of U.S. maritime commerce, while reducing risks to life, property, and the coastal environment. With increased marine commerce comes an increased risk to the coastal environment, making maritime navigation safety a serious national and international concern.
New global standards will place new demands on countries to implement these standards: (a) the International Maritime Organization may require mandatory carriage of an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) on SOLAS class vessels, which increases the need for development of worldwide Electronic Navigational Charts (ENC) coverage in the next few years; (b) there will be increased demand for decision-support systems that measure and disseminate observations and predictions of water levels, currents, salinity, and meteorological parameters (e.g., winds, atmospheric pressure, air and water temperatures) that mariners need to navigate safely; and (c) international standard geodetic reference frame will require countries to conduct the reconnaissance, technical guidance, and training necessary to be able to develop highly accurate, contemporary spatial reference systems. Moreover, products and services developed through global hydrographic, geodetic and physical oceanographic standards applications need to be made accessible to diverse social and industrial sectors to serve integrated environmental management needs.
Increased development of international standards and acquisition of data is necessary for mitigation of damage to the environment due to climate change and other natural and anthropogenic hazards as well as human development. Many countries lack the capability to conduct the geodetic, hydrographic and tidal surveys necessary to produce accurate charts of the critical maritime, surface and air routes and ports within their territorial boundaries. They also lack the capabilities to integrate these data into decision-support tools thus resulting in possibly hazardous conditions for transiting ships, planes, and surface transportation.
NOS will promote safe and environmentally sound navigation of goods and people through the development and implementation of global hydrographic, geodetic, physical oceanographic and environmental standards.