CONSOL Energy partners on new river navigation system

CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX), which is both a major producer of Northern Appalachia coal and a major barge transporter of coal and other commodities in that region, said June 7 that has helped develop a new, more efficient river navigation system.

CONSOL and the Port of Pittsburgh Commission on June 7 unveiled the first wireless broadband network deployed on inland waterways in the U.S. Developed exclusively on Pittsburgh’s three rivers (the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny) over the past several months, this new wireless broadband network, called the Wireless Waterways (WW), will connect proprietary, stove-piped, and stand-alone systems into one “system of systems” to improve the safety, security and efficiency of the inland waterways and the thousands of vessels that navigate them every day. 

The WW is an interconnected network of physical devices and applications useful in river commerce and security and will integrate real-time navigation information, cargo-tracking, and the operation of waterway sensors.

The Port of Pittsburgh’s Wireless Waterways Project, which includes the nation’s first-ever maritime-focused Interoperability Test Bed (ITB) as well as a pilot for a proposed national broadband network system, was launched in 2012 through grants from Allegheny County, Pa., the Department of Homeland Security, and the Port of Pittsburgh Commission.

The Wireless Waterways will enable the development and use of specialized applications to improve navigation and information exchange, increase security and productivity, realize functional interoperability between public safety systems and organizations by enhancing real-time situational awareness, and improve the collection of data by environmental agencies.

The WW network will provide the platform to improve the efficiency of waterway transportation, allowing regions like Pittsburgh to stay competitive in the global marketplace, CONSOL noted.

CONXX Pennsylvania Inc., a developer of network architecture and infrastructure, constructed the network, which will be available on cellphones, iPads and other wireless devices.

System installed so far on several vessels

To date, the technology has been installed on CONSOL’s M/V Safety Pledge, vessels owned by Campbell Transportation, and the Gateway Clipper. The M/V Safety Pledge is also testing the Wireless Waterways Broadband Network for Quality of Life initiatives to support a follow on application submitted earlier this month for a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant to extend the WW project nationwide.

“More than 200,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs in the Pittsburgh region depend upon a healthy and vibrant waterways system,” said James McCarville, executive director, the Port of Pittsburgh Commission.

“The M/V Safety Pledge is a fitting name for our newly refurbished vessel as it represents an innovative use of this new wireless network that serves as a test bed and model for inland waterway communications nationwide,” said Al Aloia, director of CONSOL Energy river operations.

The Safety Pledge vessel will be used as a testbed for river bed sounding technology, a 3-D camera/software technology and GPS tracking technology. Christened in May, the vessel was also upgraded with a larger galley and living quarters. CONSOL Energy said it is considering deploying the technology across its entire system.

With more than 230 employees, 23 boats and 600 barges, CONSOL Energy’s River Division prides itself on being a leader in the industry by utilizing the most up-to-date safety equipment and providing its employees with effective and productive training, the company noted.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.