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Going 'Virtual': How Do You Want Your Aids To Navigation?

US Coast Guard wants to hear from boaters via 25-question survey.


September 1, 2015

For recreational boaters, the waterway signposts known as aids to navigation are critical for a safe journey. But, what if an aid to navigation (ATON) such as a floating buoy marking the edge a deep-water channel could only be seen on an electronic screen and not by the naked eye? Will recreational boaters benefit from these new “eATONs”?

That’s the question the US Coast Guard wants to find out with a 25-question online survey at A full look at the issue is found in the August/September issue of BoatUS Magazine at

On March 12, 2014, the USCG began operating 25 fully functioning “virtual” and “synthetic” eATONs in San Francisco waters with a goal to improved safety and efficiency. Some of these electronic waterway signposts mark the ship-traffic lanes outside the Golden Gate Bridge.

The eATONs are only “visible” to vessels equipped with Automatic Identification System (AIS) technology that’s currently found on large commercial vessels and a small portion of recreational boats.

Said BoatUS President Margaret Podlich, “Although the US Coast Guard recently had 12 public listening sessions, recreational boaters did not attend in large numbers. As a result, the agency now has an online survey to capture our viewpoints, and it’s in every boater’s interest to speak up.”

In testimony to the US House of Representatives subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. Podlich added, “Unlike commercial vessels, recreational boats are much less likely to have sophisticated electronics needed to access some of the newer-proposed systems, such as virtual buoys projected on electronic charts.

”There’s still a significant need for the tried-and-true physical ATONs in areas where boaters operate, such shallow-draft harbors and channels.”

Boaters are encouraged to take the short survey before the end of the year.


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