Residents of Hampton Roads know that our natural harbor is a very busy place with cargo ships coming in and out of the Port of Virginia, Navy ships training or deploying, and thousands of private and commercial boats navigating the waters. This month, we are sharing a new web application created by Esri called U.S. Vessel Traffic, which visualizes the maritime activity in Hampton Roads and across the country from January 2017 through June 2020.
Begin by clicking on each type of vessel to toggle between them. Notice how the pattern changes based on the vessel type. For example, fishing vessel tracks are concentrated along the Eastern Shore and Chesapeake Bay and call on Newport News, Hampton, and York County. Cargo ships stay mainly in the Atlantic shipping lanes, before making their way to the port via the Elizabeth River or the port in Richmond via the James River.
You can also view information about a particular vessel. Click on a track and the map will open up a detail box about that ship. Clicking the search icon will open a web search for the vessel for more details. There is also a month and year toggle to view seasonal differences in maritime traffic.
The data for the web application comes from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) which tracks each unique vessel and collects their locations for each trip. All of the vessel trips are combined to show the total maritime traffic by month.