The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) said it is now testing 25 electronic aids to navigation (eATON) to augment existing physical aids and mark unique and potentially hazardous navigation features in the San Francisco Bay Area. Commonly referred to as “virtual” buoys, the eATON are being transmitted through the Coast Guard’s Nationwide Automatic Identification System (NAIS) for display on ships’ electronic charting systems and radars.
As part of ongoing efforts to increase the safety of navigation on the Bay the Coast Guard, in close consultation with waterway users, identified multiple offshore and inshore locations to deploy the eATON. These eATON currently mark reporting points in the offshore traffic separation scheme approaches to San Francisco: the “SF” buoy which serves as the San Francisco bar pilot embarkation point, and Mile Rocks Light and Harding Rock buoy, which mark a critical turn point for ships in the Central Bay.
In addition, five eATON now mark the bridge towers on the western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. This suite of eATON is intended to assist mariners with navigation, particularly during periods of heavy fog or congestion on the Bay.
“This is an important initiative for the Coast Guard as we explore the use of new technologies to enhance safety and protect the environment,” said Capt. Gregory Stump, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Francisco. “There is no better place to evaluate this technology than the challenging waters of San Francisco Bay, and we look forward to receiving feedback from local mariners on how we can improve this service.”
While not all vessels are equipped to display the new eATON, the Coast Guard is targeting early adopters of this new technology for testing and evaluation.