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GSatTrack and Globalstar save millions for river shipments
Nearly 36,000 tugboats, towboats and barges move an average of 763 million tons of cargo on US waterways each year. The greatest threat to continued delivery of these goods is flooding.
Tropical storms have been both stronger and more frequently occurring than in prior years. Storm surge from these disturbances routinely wash out dams and levies, making waters impassible or unsafe. Harsher winters have attributed to larger amounts of precipitation and snowfall, creating excessive runoff when temperatures rise. These factors stress river infrastructure and can negatively affect anchored barges. According to Campbell Transportation, these factors amount to over a million dollars each month in lost revenues to the barge and tugboat industry due to delays.
GSatTrack is a web-based, integrated satellite and GSM tracking solution, compatible with modern web browsers and works on a multilingual platform that brings together all the positions of every manufactured product under one location and displays and manages them in a single unified interface. With GSatTrack, asset locations and movements - including position, speed, altitude and heading - are tracked in real-time worldwide via GPS updates.
By using GPS satellites with the latest hardware and technology, any asset on earth, whether it's people, vehicles, containers, or any moving object can now be tracked. Our technology allows the integration of all types of tracking equipment into one easy to use platform. The tracking equipment determines its location by triangulating a position using GPS (Global Positioning System) and then transmits this information via GSM, Satellite, or VHF to a central server for processing. Any operator can view and control any number of real time assets simultaneously.
The Customer Situation
A barge and tugboat operator specializing in moving cargo up and down the Ohio river needed a solution that would allow the operators to be notified of delays in river traffic including flooding or changes in waterway depths while monitoring where the vessels were operating in relation to these delays. It was also incredibly important for vessel operators to be notified if the tow they were responsible for became disconnected or broke free in any way.
While most domestic waterways operate within cell coverage there are still many portions of the rivers and lakes that operate outside of GSM, making tracking of vessels using the waterways difficult, and creating complications for dispatchers to communicate with vessel operators. This is especially true in ever changing tributaries and during weather events.
Additionally, whether tracked with GSM or satellite, managers attempting to make use of the data gathered from its sources and pair it with the tracking data gathered from its vessels needed an intelligent platform that could provide actionable insights and immediately communicate those with both managers and vessel operators.
Rather than trying to engineer large scale solutions that could be cost prohibitive to achieve the goals outlined by the client, GSE instead used a mix of technologies from Globalstar. Globalstar is known for their rugged tracking devices, and recently released the SPOT X, which for the first time brings two way communication to their robust array of tracking solutions. The new SPOT X product allowed captains and dispatchers to communicate with one another through GSatTrack. This provided the solution for routing vessels by sending the correct route to their SPOT X device and allowing the vessel operators to acknowledge these messages and respond back with any details they might have from their side.
Because of the technical integration of these devices performed by the GSE team, GSatTrack was also able to make use of smart messaging technology through geofencing. In times when an accident or impediment clogged waterways this smart messaging feature allowed dispatchers to quickly draw a geofence around the affected areas and message any of their vessels operating close to the affected zones.
The second solution required for this project was to notify the operators and dispatchers if goods being towed became disconnected. This was accomplished by placing a secondary SPOT Trace unit on the two of these vessels and monitoring the secondary tracking device both with location information and through specialized alerts created using GSatTrack. The alert would notify dispatchers and vessel captains alike if the goods they were transporting became dislodged or disconnected. This was accomplished by use of GSatTrack’s “Far from Asset” feature. This alert operates by measuring the distance between two assets being tracked. Once the distance is breached the alarm is set and all contacts are notified.
With SPOT X units now aboard every vessel operating within the client’s fleet, dispatchers and captains now have continuous open communication. This leads directly to improved delivery times and the reduction of lost revenue associated with idle vessels. Furthermore, tugs and barges saw less down time from running aground due to draft issues. The open communication also directly reduced maintenance times as vessel operators were able to share with dispatchers any mechanical issues they may have been experiencing. Finally, the impact of tow and products being moved through waterways by tugs and barges was diminished by the ability of operators to know immediately if any connection issues occured. The simple solution of outfitting vessel operators with these cost effective tools and pairing it with the most feature-rich and cost-effective software provided a meaningful solution that has potential to save countless dollars lost to delays and lost product each month.