Pilot Led Innovation

Crescent River Port Pilot Ryan Scully parlayed his computer consulting business that he started at age 13 and his navigational knowledge of the treacherous Mississippi River into the creation of a new vessel tracking system that could help avert the next maritime disaster.

Captain Scully partnered with his former Texas A&M Maritime School graduate and fellow Crescent River pilot Keith Siverd to develop a computer system that puts vital, real-time information at the fingertips of all mariners on the river.

It’s called the Mississippi River Traffic Information Service or MRTIS, and it allows river pilots navigating deep-draft ships to locate support vessels in the event of an emergency such as loss of engine power.

MRTIS provides an emergency response system it calls MERS (Mississippi Emergency Response System). This system has a variety of features to help assist in case of an emergency. Some of these features include showing nearby pipelines for emergency anchoring, nearby tug vessels and fleet radio channels for emergency alerting or push-boat assistance.

“When a ship loses the engine it has a very short amount of time to find assistance and every second counts. With MERS, the mariner can quickly locate nearby towing vessels who can push on the ship and prevent a collision,” said Captain Scully who has been a state-licensed river pilot since 2011.

MRTIS can run on anything from an iPhone to a big screen monitor as it consolidates multiple sources of information into one effective, unified situational awareness system. MRTIS collects data from a variety of instruments, including live cameras, then puts it into a format that is user-friendly for all mariners on both large and small vessels.

MRTIS covers nearly 250 miles of the river from Southwest Pass near the mouth of the Mississippi to about 25 miles north of Baton Rouge.

E. Michael Bopp, president of the Crescent River Port Pilots Association, praised his visionary colleagues. “Ryan and Keith had the insight to create and implement a cutting edge technological tool that not only makes the job of pilots more effective but it insures the safety of the residents on the other side of the levee and protects billions of dollars of cargo coming in and out of our port every day.”