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Better Characteristics Data for Domestic Vessels


The EPA’s recent 2017 National Emission Inventory (NEI) shows that large vessels carrying international cargo go directly to and from coastal ports and spend the majority of their time transiting international shipping lanes. This is in contrast to smaller vessels equipped with Category 1 & 2 engines that primarily operate closer to shore and throughout US waters (e.g., inland, intracoastal waterways, coastal regions, and the Great Lakes). In many regions of the country, these smaller vessels can have a more significant impact on local air quality than the larger ships. For the 2017 NEI the operation of many of these smaller vessels was captured in automatic identification system (AIS) datasets due to the advent of less expensive AIS transponders. To estimate emissions using AIS data it is necessary to link the ships up to their vessel attributes, typically these data are readily available from classification societies (e.g. Lloyd’s Register of Ships, American Bureau of Shipping, Bureau Veritas) for larger vessels powered with Category 3 engines; unfortunately, smaller vessels that may not be involved in international cargo movements are less well represented in the classification society databases.


There is an obvious need to develop a centralized repository where ship builders and engine manufactures can submit high quality data for specific vessels and engines which can be used to more accurately characterize smaller vessel types.


Provision of detailed vessel specific attributes for these smaller primarily domestic vessels would allow for the development of more accurate emission inventories. Alternatively, if more vessel specific data are readily available these data could be used to create more accurate surrogates where vessel specific data are not available. These new vessel surrogate profiles could account for regional differences in vessel size for main and auxiliary engine configurations.

Related Research:

There is little published research from TRB on this topic. One reference was identified from the 1981 Transportation Research Record (824) authored by Arnold Bloch, entitled Physical and Operating Characteristics of Ferry Vessels, which included a summary of vessel characteristics for ferries; this could be a useful starting point to update the data for at least these vessel types.


To implement this project, required data elements would need to be identified and incorporated into an online data system that manufacturers or operators could submit their vessel data and users could extract. Additionally, quality assurance processes would need to be defined and an initial population of the dataset would need to be implemented. An outreach program would also be needed to encourage shipbuilders and engine manufactures and operators to submit their data. Outreach for potential users would also be helpful to ensure that users are aware of the availability of these data. These activities could include the following phases:

Phase 1 – Literature Search of Small Vessel Attributes – This could involve the use of data scraping techniques.

· Compilation of data for the initial population of the database.

· Assessment of available data elements and those required to estimate and spatially and temporally apportion emissions.

Phase 2 – Development of Small Vessel Attribute Database

· User friendly approach for manufacturers or operators to enter data.

· User friendly approach to filter and extract data for inventory development.

· Determination where the database would be hosted.

· Develop QA procedures which could be applied to the compiled data from Phase 1 and entered into the database as a test case and to provide an initial populated database.

Phase 3 – Outreach

· Develop a list of possible groups to host the database and contact them to find an interested party.

· Develop a strategy to encourage vessel and engine manufacturers and vessel operators to enter their data in the database; could be coupled with green vessel certification programs.

· To encourage confidence in the database, documents should be provided that summarize how submitted data would be quality checked prior to inclusion into the public version of the database.

· There is also a need to let users know of the availability of the database; possibly at trade and emission inventory conference as well as on the web.


The outreach material should be posted on TRB’s website.


Port authorities, State and Federal agencies such as U.S. EPA, as well as research institutes, NGOs and consultants may find the small vessel attribute data useful in developing future inventories.


It is critical to better understand local air quality issues that accurate emission inventories be developed for communities adjacent to waterways that are used by smaller domestic vessels. This requires detailed vessel-specific data, which at this time is not complied for these smaller vessels in any centralized data source. Such a data system would be incredibly valuable to scientists and engineers developing these inventories allowing for more cost effective prioritization of emission reduction initiatives.

Sponsoring Committee:AW030, Marine Environment
Research Period:24 - 36 months
Research Priority:Medium
RNS Developer:Richard Billings
Source Info:USEPA 2017 National Emission Inventory https://www.epa.gov/air-emissions-inventories/2017-national-emissions-inventory-nei-data

USEPA Category 2 Vessel Census, Activity and Spatial Allocation Assessment and Category 1 and Category 2 In-Port/At-sea Split Feb 2016, 2007.

BOEM 2017 Gulfwide Emission Inventory, https://www.boem.gov/environment/environmental-studies/ocs-emissions-inventory-2017

Bureau of Transportation Statistics National Census of Ferry Operators, https://www.bts.gov/NCFO

Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) Harahan, LA. https://offshoremarine.org/

University National Oceanographic Laboratory System https://www.unols.org/info/vessels.htm

USCG Merchant Vessels of the U.S. https://www.dco.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Prevention-Policy-CG-5P/Inspections-Compliance-CG-5PC-/Office-of-Investigations-Casualty-Analysis/Merchant-Vessels-of-the-United-States/

USACE Waterborne Transportation Lines of the US https://usace.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16021coll2/id/1376/
Inland River Record https://www.waterwaysjournal.net/books/inland-river-record/
Date Posted:11/01/2020
Date Modified:01/25/2021
Index Terms:Data analysis, Data files, Identification systems, Pollutants, Ships,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Marine Transportation
Data and Information Technology

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