Port Saint John is getting a new "smart" weather buoy in response to increased traffic in the port, officials announced at the port on Friday.

The new buoy, which will provide real-time online information about weather and ocean conditions, is expected to improve safety and efficiency, they said.

Port chairman Peter Gaulton referred to it as a "next generation lighthouse."

SmartATLANTIC buoy

A SmartATLANTIC buoy in St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador (SmartATLANTIC)

"Safety is the marine pilots's number one priority," port CEO and president Jim Quinn said in a statement. "SmartATLANTIC is a huge step in the right direction," he said.

The port will contribute $91,000 to the project — 25 per cent of the total $417,000 cost.

The New Brunswick government will also contribute $91,000, said Tourism Minister Trevor Holder, who is the MLA for Saint John Portland.

"We need to continue saying yes to this sort of thing to stay competitive with other ports," said Holder, echoing the theme of the Progressive Conservative Party's new election slogan, which is a direct challenge to Liberal Leader Brian Gallant’s attempt to walk a fine line on natural resource issues, such as shale gas development.

"We are being proactive with this initiative as traffic at the port is expected to increase significantly as new opportunities open up such as the proposed Energy East Pipeline," Holder said in a statement.

Improves environmental protection

The federal government will provide up to $185,000 for the buoy, which will serve the marine transportation community, commercial fishermen, recreational boaters and researchers, said Saint John MP Rodney Weston, on behalf of Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt.

"This buoy technology will increase the safety and the efficiency of our shipping industry, as well as increase marine traffic and trade through the Saint John Gateway, an important Atlantic Gateway port," Weston said in a statement.

The SmartATLANTIC buoy will also help with environmental protection by reducing the potential for incidents, such as an oil spill, federal officials said.

hi-nb-saint-john-port

The Saint John Harbour and the Bay of Fundy area is one of the top four tanker traffic zones in the country, officials say.

The Bay of Fundy is one of the top four tanker traffic zones in the country, officials said.

In 2013, Port Saint John handled 27.6 million tonnes of cargo; and over the past five years, Saint John has welcomed almost one million cruise ship passengers.

The buoy is expected to be installed in January, with real-time streaming of data to port traffic and the general public set for late April. 

Other partners in the buoy project include: AMEC Environment & Infrastructure, which is providing in-kind services of $30,000, the Canadian Marine Pilots' Association, which is providing in-kind services of $8,000, and the Canada Coast Guard, which is providing in-kind services of $12,000.

The annual operating and maintenance costs of the project will be equally covered by the Atlantic Pilotage Authority, Canaport LNG, Irving Oil, and the Saint John Port Authority. Technical support will be provided by AMEC Environment & Infrastructure and the Centre for Applied Ocean Technology at the Marine Institute at Memorial University of Newfoundland.