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“It is absolutely vital to know the current environmental conditions so you can make decisions on the safest way to board and disembark ships.”
by Noah Niday, Deputy Branch Pilot
The safe navigation of a ship through a confined and perilous waterway requires accurate environmental data so that maneuvering tactics can be employed to keep the ship safe during its transit. The pilot has to have accurate wind data to know how the ship might be effected during the transit.
As Texas state-licensed pilots, the Brazos Pilots are chiefly responsible for protecting public waterways by ensuring safe and efficient ship transits on the Freeport Ship Channel. Every ship that comes in and out of the Port of Freeport in Texas has a Brazos Pilot who boards the ship and safely navigates the ship in and out of port.
After researching multiple commercial-grade weather stations, we chose to purchase from Columbia Weather Systems because it seemed like the best combination of commercial-grade durability, accuracy of info, and usability for accessing the data on the go.
[The Brazos Pilots chose an Orion Weather Station with WeatherMaster™ Software and the Weather MicroServer™ so pilots can access the environmental data through the CWS Weather Monitor App on their mobile phones. They also purchased a Universal Mounting Arm to install the weather station on an existing tower.]
The most used set of real-time data from the station is the wind speed and direction. Utilizing current wind, rolling averages, and gust information allows the pilots to plan ahead for maneuvering ships safely due to the fact wind can easily push a ship into a dangerous position. Other data is also used to assess what will be needed to complete the day’s work. Temperature and rain indicate how the pilot should dress and what gear may be needed for the transit.
The Brazos Pilots themselves use the data to better prepare for what tactics may be necessary to safely navigate the ships in and out of port. Pilots operate 24/7, day and night, in a hostile environment that includes strong winds, high seas, powerful currents, and a wide range of temperatures and blinding fog.
The pilots also rely on their pilot boat captains to safely get them on and off the ships using the "Brazos Pilot.” The "Brazos Pilot" is our state of the art 65’ pilot boat that is used to bring the pilots five nautical miles offshore where they get on and off the ships. It is absolutely vital to know the current environmental conditions so you can make decisions on the safest way to board and disembark ships. The pilot boat captains will use this information so they can make those decisions.
One of the biggest actions that can be triggered by the data provided to us by our new weather station is knowing when the wind is too strong, and all ship traffic movement needs to be suspended until safer conditions arrive.
Utilizing the Columbia Weather Systems app allows all six of our pilots, five pilot boat captains, and three deckhands to access accurate and real-time environmental data on the go by using their phone.
The Brazos Pilots successfully completed the installation of their Orion Weather Station System on their 100’ tower. The tower gives the system a clear line of sight and access to unobstructed environmental conditions. We are confident that this system will last many years and provide the Brazos Pilots with the crucial information needed on a daily basis.