The USCG will release a proposed rule requiring transponders and electronic charts on most vessels operating in the New Orleans VTS zone. Project officers outlined their plans at a meeting of the Lower Mississippi River Waterway Safety Advisory Committee
Under the new VTS system, vessels will use Automatic Identification System
(AIS) technology, including transponders and electronic charts, to locate and identify other vessels in their vicinity. The question before the USCG is: which vessels should be required to carry the equipment?
The USCG will propose the following vessels be required to carry full AIS systems, including both transponders and electronic chart display units:
· Power-driven vessels of 131 ft. or more;
· Towing vessels of 26 ft. or more, while engaged in towing activities;
· Vessels certified to carry 50 or more passengers for hire; and,
· Dredges or floating plants.
The USCG would require power-driven vessels between 66 to 131 ft. (including most ship assist tugs) to carry a transponder, but these vessels would have the option of not carrying the display unit.
The USCG is setting a target date of March 2000 for starting the New Orleans VTS system. However, project officers say they will be willing to delay carriage requirements for an acceptable phase-in period. They also readily admit the operating VTS system is likely to be delayed beyond the March 2000 target date.
At the presentation, the USCG indicated, if bought today, the full cost of a permanently attached AIS unit (transponder and display) would be between $9,700 and $13,000. The cost of a portable unit would be $12,000 to $16,000 and the transponder alone would cost $4,800 to $6,500. However, they indicated current prices are based on limited production of a small number of transponders used in testing. The cost is expected to drop with competition and increased demand.