Stevens’ CSR provides vital maritime information to local, state and national agencies
The Center was instrumental following the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 and the August 2009 mid-air collision of a helicopter and small plane
Stevens Institute of Technology was in 2008 named by the US Department of Homeland Security as one of five national Centers of Excellence and was selected to lead a national research effort to address Port Security. Stevens was one of 11 universities to partner with the DHS in its efforts. The Department’s partners serve as important team members for conducting multi-disciplinary research and creating innovative learning environments for critical homeland security missions.
The Center for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce (CSR), along with the University of Hawaii’s National Center for Islands, Maritime, and Extreme Environments Security (CIMES), are the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Center of Excellence for Maritime, Island and Extreme/Remote Environment Security.
The two Centers have parallel objectives and complementary expertise and their close coordination enhances the capabilities of each.
The CSR brings together a unique group of academic institutions and public and private partners that is led by Stevens. In addition to Stevens, the partnership includes the following academic institutions: Rutgers University, University of Miami, University of Puerto Rico, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Monmouth University and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy’s Global Maritime and Transportation School. The non-university partners in the CSR include the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Mattingley Group, Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems, the Pacific Basin Development Council, and Nansen Environmental Remote Sensing Center.
“Stevens and our partner universities in the CSR have opened entirely new avenues of research to assist DHS in the Department’s effort to ensure that the nation’s Marine Transportation System is safe and secure,” said Dr. Michael S. Bruno, Dean of Stevens’ Schaefer School of Engineering and Science. “Our work in maritime surveillance sensor development and port design-for-resiliency is truly revolutionary. We are also proud of the fact that dozens of students are involved in these projects, paving the way for their entrance into the homeland security workforce.”
Federal funding for the Center of Excellence in Port Security was the result of a highly selective, national competition among research universities and did not involve any congressional earmarks. The grant is highly specific, controlled and audited.
During its first year, the Center provided critical assistance in the immediate aftermath of the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River and the August 2009 mid-air collision of a helicopter and small plane over the Hudson River.
US Airways Flight 1549
In the late afternoon of January 15, 2009, Stevens learned that US Airways Flight 1549 with 155 people on board had landed in the Hudson River. CSR personnel at Stevens immediately contacted the US Coast Guard Sector New York and the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to offer assistance in the rescue. The Stevens NYHOPS (New York Harbor Observing and Prediction System) website (www.stevens.edu/maritimeforecast/) was employed in the preparation of a detailed summary of the present water conditions in the Hudson River surrounding the landing site, and a forecast of conditions for the next 48 hours.
Within minutes of the landing, Dr. Alan Blumberg, Director of the Center for Maritime Systems at Stevens, was able to give the New York Office of Emergency Management (OEM) accurate information that helped rescue workers on the scene.
Blumberg and his colleague Nickitas Georgas prepared a detailed summary of the present water conditions in the Hudson River surrounding the crash site and a forecast of conditions for the next 48 hours. The summary was based on the extensive suite of ocean sensors and forecast models that have been operational in the waters of New York and New Jersey over the past 10 years.
Blumberg then reached out to the OEM Watch Commander, Michael Lee, with information such as water temperature, speed, surface conditions and tide flow. Lee was able to forward the data to the scene.
“Nobody else had this extremely important information to aid in the rescue,” said Lee. “As always, we are very appreciative of Dr. Blumberg’s continued assistance and support.”
Officials heeded Blumberg’s suggestion to deploy rescue assets downstream, not upstream, along Manhattan and to guide the plane eastward to the Battery area for salvage operations. As the Battery has the weakest currents in this very energetic current environment, it was the easiest area to try and salvage the plane.
In the days following the crash, Stevens provided around the clock on-call assistance to the various emergency agencies including the NTSB in order to assist with the salvage operations.
CSR assists in recovery of wreckage after Hudson River mid-air collision
Almost immediately after the terrible mid-air collision that occurred over the Hudson River on August 8, 2009, Stevens was contacted by local, state and Federal officials to help in the recovery effort. CSR personnel from Stevens were called to the scene for analysis of currents and the proposed search area.
First, using the Stevens New York Harbor Observation and Prediction System (NYHOPS), which gives a real-time assessment of ocean, weather, environmental, and vessel traffic conditions for various New York Metropolitan area waterways, the university was able to give accurate information to aide in the recovery effort.
Second, using firsthand knowledge from Michael Bruno, who has clocked many hours diving in the Hudson River, emergency responders were able to get information about what they could anticipate on the bottom of the river before they even stepped off the boat.
“Throughout, our forecast was right on – literally right to the minute in our predictions of slack tide; not an easy thing in a water-body this complex,” said Bruno.
Over the weekend, emergency workers from the New York Police Department, New Jersey State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board continued to work closely with Stevens and CSR.
“The information proved invaluable to the search and recovery,” said Bruno. “Through it all, the agencies functioned as a team, providing expert opinion and advice, and logistical support, as appropriate and as needed.”
“The contribution and professionalism of the men and women of Stevens who assisted our team during the initial hours and days after the accident was critical to our ability to conduct a thorough and timely accident investigation,” said Deborah A. P. Hersman, the chairman of the NTSB.
The Stevens team successfully recovered a windshield frame, a portion of the fuselage and inspected various location targets as advised by the New Jersey State Police.