Informing Offshore Wind Planning with Vessel Traffic Data in the Atlantic

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The demand for offshore wind energy has never been greater. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management facilitates the responsible development of renewable energy resources through conscientious planning, stakeholder engagement, comprehensive environmental analysis, and sound technical review. As ocean uses grow, the need for accurate data to identify how and where potential stakeholders use waters in and near current and potential wind energy lease areas (Wind Planning Areas) is essential.


The bureau’s Office of Renewable Energy Programs uses vessel traffic information created from automatic identification system (AIS) data provided by to perform analysis at all wind areas of interest. The agency uses these data to understand how the maritime sector uses waters near potential and current offshore wind leases. AIS data provide essential information that staff need for their studies, including different vessel type use patterns, the ways individual vessels move, the density of vessels using an area, and how the vessel uses change within and between years. Specifically, the agency has used AIS data to

  • Examine how deep-draft cargo vessels and tankers travel on approaches to and departures from Transportation Safety Schemes in the New York Bight; and
  • Help identify tow lengths, widths, and turns that vessels actively fishing in Southeastern New England use to conduct their business in order to discover potential issues with wind turbine placement.


In using AIS data for vessel traffic analysis, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management staff have a better understanding of how the maritime community uses the waters in and near wind planning areas. This helps identify stakeholders that need to be included in discussions when planning offshore wind areas and provides a conversational baseline for stakeholder engagement. (2020)

Vessel traffic tug and towing lines in New York Bight
This map shows tug and towing track lines and density through and near New York Bight Call Areas.