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Publication Abstract

Navigation Engineering Practice and Ethical Standards

McAnally, W. H., McCartney, B. L., Calhoun, C. C., Cox, M. D., & Pokrefke, T. J. (2009). Navigation Engineering Practice and Ethical Standards. Manuals and Reports on Engineering Practice No. 116. Reston, VA: American Society of Civil Engineers.

Navigation projects provide for waterborne transport of people and goods – by ships, barges, ferries, and other vessels. They consist of ports, harbors, channels, locks, and related facilities and they constitute vital links in the Marine Transportation System, a collection of people, facilities, organizations, and equipment that work together to move people and goods from origin to destination using waterborne carriers for at least one component of the journey. Navigation projects are engineered – designed, constructed, operated and maintained – in accordance with engineering criteria -- laws, regulations, codes, guidance, and good practice. The common foundation that supports these criteria is ethics. Ethical behavior does the right thing and that behavior is guided for engineers through professional codes of ethics such as those of the American Society of Civil Engineers, state licensing boards, and oaths of (public) office. The practice of navigation engineering involves the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of safe, reliable, efficient, and environmentally sustainable navigable waterways (channels, structures, and support systems) used to move people and goods by waterborne vessels. Engineering criteria are expressed in terms of general principles, such as safety, effectiveness, and efficiency, and in more specific terms such as a 1 in 100 probability of accidental property damage, or a benefit-to-cost ratio higher than 1.0. Safety and public welfare are cited as basic canons in codes of ethics; whereas, other measures such as cost-to-benefit ratio are defined by law, regulations, and guidance. The design process for navigation projects consists of a series of methodical steps in which assumptions and criteria are resolved by engineering tools and engineering judgment applied consistent with Canons 1, 2 and 4 of the ASCE Code of Ethics. Sustainable water resource systems are those designed and managed to meet the needs of people living in the future as well as those of us living today. Sustainable development is a goal of Canon 1 of the ASCE Code of Ethics and has been incorporated into many organization’s design principles. The Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, and NOAA each have management roles and ethical responsibilities in navigation systems. The Corps operates and maintains structures and channels and provides resource management in order for projects to meet their intended purposes. The Coast Guard provides for safe navigation and security. NOAA provides services such as tide and weather forecasts to mariners. All of these activities contribute to the effectiveness of the system while safeguarding public welfare and safety in accordance with Canon 1 of the ASCE Code of Ethics. Design tools used to evaluate various channel and hydraulic structure configurations include standard computations, physical and numerical models, and field investigations and are best employed in a tiered analysis approach. Good engineering practice, including proper use of physical models, numerical models, field investigations plus mathematical and software tools, is defined by the evolving knowledge and skills of the engineering community, in which engineers are required by Canon 7 to maintain currency. While this manual focuses on navigation projects, the same ethical considerations and engineering process are applicable to all civil works projects.