PIANC Returns To Pittsburgh, Focuses On River Improvements

October 9, 2017


The 2017 meeting of the PIANC SmartRivers Conference returned to the site of its first gathering in Pittsburgh, Pa., September 18¬–21. The event was held at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square near the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.

The technical conference brought together more than 200 professionals from around the world in various aspects of inland river transportation from the private sector, government, non-governmental organizations and academia.

A variety of technical sessions, a technology tour of Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center, industry exhibits and a dinner cruise on the three rivers made up the conference’s agenda. The technical sessions focused on river issues in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The technical sessions centered around four key topics—building sustainable and resilient projects, systems and waterways; the importance of infrastructure and data standards; the need to be more transparent in quantifying and explaining freight movement; and adopting and applying automation to locks, bridges, vessel operations and monitoring systems.

Established in 1885, PIANC (The World Association For Waterborne Transport Infrastructure Conference) continues to be a partner for government and private sector in the design, development and maintenance of ports, waterways and coastal areas. Under the leadership of PIANC member Jim McCarville, retired executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh, Smart Rivers was created to bring together waterway experts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean in 2005.

Some highlights from the technical sessions are presented below.

Brian Eick of the Corps’ Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) discussed the USACE SMART Gate. SMART stands for Structural Monitoring and Analysis in Real Time of lock gates. The tool is an automatic structural health monitoring and reporting implement for ensuring the operational safety and effective maintenance of lock gates.

According to Eick’s presentation, lock gates are a weak link in the system. “This is because the gates are massive dynamic components subjected to cyclic loading as they swing open and closed several times a day,” he said. “Moreover, they are subjected to extreme environmental variations and can be covered in ice during the winter or the hot sun during the summer.”

Eick added that debris being dragged under a gate can also cause issues. “This will cause additional required force to open and close the gate,” he said. “The force required to open or close a gate is measured and categorized as normal or abnormal. SMART Gate allows an indicator to be sent to the operator when force is too high.”

Eick added that the maintenance of lock gates is the leading cause of lock closures. “Some estimates put the economic cost of a lock closure at $3 million per day,” he said.

Aging Lock Monoliths
Robert Lindyberg of FDH Velocitel presented on the nondestructive evaluation of aging lock monoliths. Lindyberg examined the concrete lock monoliths of Greenup (Ky.) Locks and Dam on the Ohio River to provide an example. The monoliths are 38 feet wide and 40 feet long, with varying heights up to 85 feet. Several cracks were examined on Monolith 7, where water leaking through a crack into a culvert valve was seen.

“This condition state is problematic for Greenup Locks and Dam,” said Lindyberg. “Progression of this condition state could lead to inoperability of the lock chambers and loss of navigation on the Ohio River at this location. Failure of the middle wall would have direct economic impacts to the industry that uses this lock and dam.”

Lindyberg concluded by stating that monitoring of the locks’ condition is ongoing, with future plans to anchor all problem monoliths. Future budget packages have and will be submitted.

E-Navigation Software
Joel Box of GateHouse Group discussed e-navigation software solutions as a way to analyze and disseminate information on the waterways.
Box presented on the value of information as defined and determined by the client and what information is appropriate for driving decision making. GateHouse’s maritime Web service enables integration between a client system and the GateHouse Maritime system.

The system includes port and track services that are used for online tracking of ships toward a part or other destination. Box said this feature can be used for calculating estimated time of arrival at a destination or any waypoint. “The services can also be used for retrieving a historical track of a given ship or a list of port calls for a given ship or port,” he said.

FRP Materials And Infrastructure
Dr. PV Vijay of West Virginia University discussed FRP (fiber reinforced polymer) composite structures in the U.S. inland rivers. As an emerging solution for both rehabilitation and new construction, FRP offers potential for construction or repair of critical components of navigation systems at a reduced cost and greater durability.

According to Vijay, FRP wicket gates, miter blocks and recess protection panels were successfully developed as replacements to conventional material-based structures with adequate safety factors against bending, shear and fatigue.

These structures were lighter, cost effective, easily fabricated and installed in the field. Vijay said that regular monitoring and inspection of field implemented FRP structures will help in understanding its long-term performance, effectiveness and durability for its mass implementation in hydraulic infrastructures.

Lock Operation Improvements
Stuart Foltz of ERDC and Dan Hooks of the Lockport Lock in the Rock Island Engineer District examined simple lock operation improvements. Foltz and Hooks said there are many small things that can be done to significantly improve the reliability of lock operating equipment, which includes resolvers, gear covers, pumps, valves, solid state timers and high-grade oil and antifreeze. The presentation also focused on things that can be done to make operating a lock safer, which included adding cameras, the proximity of switches, redundant position indicator and verification, more and better interlocks, and an interlock override policy.

Keynote Addresses Latin America
A seated luncheon with keynote speaker Jorge Duran broke up the second day of technical sessions. Duran is the chief of the Secretariat, Inter-American Committee on Ports (CIP)-Organization of American States (OAS). His keynote address focused on the competitiveness, logistics and port infrastructure on the waterways in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to Duran, CIP is made up of 35 national port authorities. The organization focuses on political dialogue, capacity building, technical assistance and active collaboration with the private sector. “CIP is the only permanent inter-government forum at the highest level to promote the development of the maritime sector in the region,” said Duran. “It promotes and improves management and technical capabilities of port officials and assists member states on issues or specific projects upon request. CIP promotes win-win partnerships with private sectors in the maritime industry to develop projects.”

Some associate members include Carnival, Green Marine, Port Miami, PIANC USA and the Port of Buenos Aires.

Duran noted that the ports of Santos, Brazil; Colon, Panama; Balboa, Panama; Manzanillo, Mexico; and Cartagena, Colombia, are the top five Latin American ports in terms of maritime container traffic, with each port experiencing an increase in volume from 2014 to 2015.

Currently, the Bahamas and Jamaica are investing in modernizing their logistics hubs. Duran said the Bahamas Freeport expansion project costs approximately $250 million, while Jamaica is investing $660 million to become a regional logistics hub. Mexico, said Duran, plans to invest $5 billion for ports, which include 25 port projects.

Upon examination of South American inland waterways, Duran noted that nearly 70 percent of the territory is formed by watersheds with naturally navigable rivers. “Seventy-five percent of the superficial water resources in the region correspond to basins shared by two or more countries.”

The benefits of transporting commodities on South American rivers were also explored. Duran said the cost of transporting goods by river in Argentina is only $5 per ton, whereas transporting freight via road is $13 per ton, and shipping freight on train costs approximately $11 per ton. These numbers stand despite the lack of maintenance dredging and waterway buoying, added Duran.

In summary, Duran told the audience that Latin American and Caribbean ports are investing in infrastructure for modernization, updating legislation and policies to cope with new global trends and demands. “Public and private ports are improving logistics to become more competitive,” he said. “The member countries should prepare for the challenges of larger ships and the expansion of the Panama Canal.”