Repairs to Prince William Sound’s radar in the works

Screenshot of AIS system
The Coast Guard is using other technologies, such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS) pictured here, to monitor traffic while radar repairs are underway.

Coast Guard planning long-term project to replace entire system

Radar that helps the U.S. Coast Guard monitor vessels in Port Valdez is undergoing repairs.

This radar is part of the Coast Guard’s Vessel Traffic Service, or VTS, which monitors and manages vessel traffic movements in busy waterways such as Prince William Sound. Three radar sites across Prince William Sound relay information to Valdez, where the data is integrated with other technologies onto an electronic display.

All three sites have struggled to stay online recently because of the harsh Alaska environment coupled with normal wear and tear. The Coast Guard plans to have at least one radar at each of the three sites operational by September 2021.

Planning for further upgrades

U.S. Coast Guard Commander Patrick Drayer joined a Council meeting in January to report that the Coast Guard’s long-term plan is to develop plans to upgrade all of the VTS radar systems nationwide. The Coast Guard will begin an in-depth review starting this summer to help plan these upgrades. The timeline and cost for replacement is not yet known as it is still early in the planning process.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is monitoring the Sound using other technologies. While other technologies serve valuable roles, the Council does not believe that other technologies can adequately replace the surveillance and collision avoidance capabilities that modern radar provides.

The Council is planning a review to better understand how these technologies work together to prevent accidents and potential oil spills.

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