Let's face it: I'm a transportation geek--if you haven't noticed already! On my regular walk downtown to work, during inclement weather or when I am running late, I sometimes take the MAX light rail one stop within Portland's Fareless Square. Earlier this week, I first noticed Tri-Met's Rail System Map, and managed to miss my stop while studying it!
essay earlier this year. But like most paper publications, port calendars now have online, real-time competitors. Vessel-tracking websites display information transmitted by Automatic Identification System (AIS) radio transponders. AIS is a short-range, coastal tracking system in which all passenger ships and all but the smallest cargo vessels must participate per international convention. There are a number of websites that provide AIS-based geographical information systems (GIS), most of which charge for their most interesting services.
My favorite vessel-tracking site is Marine Traffic.com, a cooperative venture that provides its services for free! On its Live Ships Map page, you can select any covered maritime region or port, or any ship within range, and track current and recent ship positions.
Columbia River Pilots website is useful. Putting this all together, I can figure out where the ship is registered (possibly under a flag of convenience), what it is carrying, and, if it is underway, or soon to be, its next destination. For instance, here is a photo I took of the MV Privlaka, a grain carrier under Croatian registry, in port on November 28 loading grain at an export elevator jointly operated by the Cargill and Louis Dreyfus Corporations. The Privlaka is likely at sea now, since there there is no AIS data available on MarineTraffic.com.