[CENTER]Fitting of fixed ATONS in the Houston Ship Channel with “Knock down sensors”
The coast guard has recently seen fit to allocate some of its budget to investing in expensive “knock down sensors” on some if not all of the fixed ATONS, such as the modern solar powered night lit channel markers, in the Houston Ship Channel.
The reason why?
Fixed ATONS are getting “destroyed” faster than the coast guard can drive the piles and replace them. A great deal of the time the knock downs go unreported.
If you as a captain report an ATON knock down your company is going to shell out about $25k to replace it. You are not going to knock down too many of those before you become a liability to the company and you will no longer be operating a vessel for them.
Ships don’t normally have to worry about knocking down the channel markers because the water around them is so shallow.
The limited tonnage vessels are the ones that are asked by the ship pilots to “hug” the edge of the channel so that the ships have plenty of room to over take and pass.
What some pilots fail to realize is ,depending on which way the tide is running, if you get too close to the edge of the channel you are going to be dodging day boards in a hurry. Sometimes you win. Sometimes the day board wins.
My solution is to replace a good majority of fixed ATONS with rough service, racon fitted buoys.
I realize the larger vessels need fixed points of reference to help them stay in the channel. Channel markers spaced at every few miles instead of every half mile or so would be much better.
Buoys can not be trusted to always be on station but if you know which way the tide is running and have a decent chart plotter you can pretty well tell where you are in relation to the “true” channel even if it is only marked with buoys.
Ranges, which are all up and down the HSC, also help vessels to stay in the channel.
If you get too close to a buoy you can usually rub it right down the side of your vessel or tow without damaging it. You can even knock it under an empty tow, and as long as you don’t run it through your wheels, usually it will come out fine.
Occasionally the coast guard will have to go out to a buoy fitted channel and straiten up the buoy line but that is a lot less expensive and a lot less time consuming that driving piles.
Buoys in strong current and high traffic areas can be fitted with heavier anchors and a shorter scope so the buoy stays a lot closer to its charted position.
Buoys would be much cheaper to replace and maintain than day boards fitted with sensors to detect when someone has knocked that same day board down for the 3<SUP>rd</SUP> time in a year.
Seems like it would be smarter to address the problem of [U]why[/U] the ATONS are getting knocked down than to spend money to catch and punish the ones who are knocking them down.
Every time an ATON gets knocked down they should replace it for half or even a quarter of the cost of a fixed ATON with a buoy.
This would save the coast guard money.
Usually the ATONS that are getting knocked down are in troublesome areas anyway.
There would be a reduction if not a cease to knock downs in that area.
Maybe an occasional buoy relocation or replacement of a buoy would be needed but that is still cheaper than putting in a fixed channel marker.