ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Video cameras mounted on towers throughout Prince William Sound are helping the U.S. Coast Guard direct shipping traffic at Port Valdez, where North Slope crude oil is loaded onto tankers bound for West Coast refineries.
Coast Guard officials say they will continue to rely mainly on radar technology to manage ship traffic in Prince William Sound, but the video is a helpful supplement.
"Now we can physically see what's going on in the Sound," said Coast Guard Lt. Jim Rosenberg, outgoing head of the Vessel Traffic Center.
This summer a Coast Guard contractor, New Horizons Telecom Inc. of Palmer, installed cameras on communications towers at four remote sites around Prince William Sound. For security reasons, Coast Guard commanders declined to disclose the exact location of the cameras.
All the cameras were functioning by the last week in August.
Besides getting an actual look at vessels, the cameras will strengthen the Coast Guard's homeland security capability and give more accurate reads on fog and other weather in the Sound.
"I've been looking at radar for 18 years. This is a great tool," said Chief Petty Officer James Larcom of the new cameras.
With decent weather, the cameras can give the Coast Guard a look at nearly the entire length of the vessel traffic lanes through the Sound.
Valdez is one of 10 Coast Guard vessel traffic centers around the country, most located in areas of heavy ship traffic such as Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay, New Orleans and New York City.
The Valdez center is unique in having to watch out not only for ships, but huge hunks of hull-crunching glacial ice floating into the vessel traffic lanes.
Â© 2005 Associated Press