New river sensors help ships, boats get conditions


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ships and boats using the St. Johns River now have a new way to get information about conditions on the water.

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Jacksonville Marine Transportation Exchange, and the Jacksonville Port Authority held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting Wednesday morning for a new system of sensors along the river.

The sensors are part of the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, or PORTS. They measure water levels, currents, weather conditions and the amount of room between area bridges and the river.

If cargo ships trying to reach Jacksonville's port have more clearance under the Dames Point Bridge, they can carry more cargo. Port officials expect those ships to benefit from this system the most, but said it could also benefit other boaters.

"I think we're going to see local fishermen getting some good information off it for salinity, the currents that they're looking at to keep themselves safe as they go out for different fishing tournaments, and a lot of other impacts that we don't even know yet," said Capt. Tom Allan of Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville.

Jacksonville is the 23rd location to use the PORTS system, and NOAA says it is the second-largest system ever established.

Anyone can view the data from the sensors along the river.