Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The North Sea is Very Busy

Delft University of Technology has worked with Microsoft to map the huge amount of marine traffic off the coast of the Netherlands. In Crowds on the North Sea TU Delft takes a detailed look at this new map of North Sea marine traffic. 

As you scroll through Crowds on the North Sea the map zooms and pans to highlight and explore the different  types of shipping traffic active off the coast of the Netherlands. This includes large ferries used for shipping passengers to and from the Netherlands. The map also reveals the main routes taken by the fleets of container ships constantly sailing in and out of the huge Dutch commercial ports. The AIS tracks of dredging ships can also be seen as they work to keep the main shipping routes open for all other shipping traffic.

Of course the North Sea isn't only used for marine traffic. The sea is also home to wind turbine farms, sand extraction sites, communication cables and gas pipelines. The Crowds on the North Sea interactive map also shows where these other key infrastructure assets are housed in the very busy  North Sea. There are also plans to locate storage facilities for CO2 and to build artificial islands for housing & for an airport - in this already crowded and very active area of the North Sea off the coast of the Netherlands.

The area of the North Sea off the Belgium coast is also one of the busiest seas in the world. In fact Belgian territorial waters are so busy that the North Sea off the Belgian coast sees more marine traffic than both the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal. 

To help illustrate the huge amount of marine activity which takes place off the coast of Belgium the financial newspaper De Tijd created an animated map which visualizes 24 hours of marine traffic, using data from marinetraffic. On this animated map different colors are used to show four distinct types of marine vessel. In the story The North Sea is Teeming container ships are shown in yellow, the blue vessels are fishing boats, dredgers are shown in red and other types of ship are shown in gray. 

The North Sea off the Belgian coast is very shallow and contains many sandbanks. As you progress through De Tijd's story the navigable sea routes off the Belgian coast are added to the map. Look out for the red boats on the map which show the dredgers constantly working to keep these sea routes navigable.Keep scrolling and the dredging dumps, where the dredgers tip the sand and silt cleared from the sea routes, are also added to the map.

As well as the animated map showing 24 hours of marine activity 'The North Sea is Teeming' includes maps which show the major wind farms off the Belgian coast, the location of protected nature zones in the North Sea, and the locations of gas, electricity & telecommunication pipes & cables. Towards the end of De Tijd's story another map is used to show that underwater noise pollution in the North Sea is loudest off the Belgian Coast. With all this marine activity it is easy to understand why.

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