Concerns voiced over response plan rule

Implementation of a section of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004 requiring vessel response plans is causing worry among non-tank vessel operators.

The act requires that non-tank vessel response plans be prepared and submitted to the Coast Guard by Aug. 8.

In a recent letter to the Coast Guard, Passenger Vessel Association president Troy Manthey said the PVA is “extremely concerned” about the requirement.

When Congress and the Coast Guard began the effort to require non-tank vessels to develop approved oil spill response plans, everyone’s attention was addressed to spill threats posed by foreign-flag oceangoing ships. Small domestic passenger vessels were not identified as potential subjects of regulation, Manthey’s letter said.

And, added Manthey, “The House-passed version of H.R. 2443 excluded nearly all smaller domestic passenger vessels from the coverage of the non-tank vessel response plan provision. This was accomplished by the allowable use of regulatory tonnage for purposes of determining whether a vessel exceeded the 400 gross tons threshold.”

A domestic passenger vessel with a regulatory tonnage of less than 400 gross tons should not be subject to the response plan requirement, Manthey’s letter said.

Ken Wells, president, Offshore Marine Service Association, which represents Gulf oil service vessel operators, said they are also concerned. “First, it must be said that for everyone this is the law, and it is on everybody to comply with the law to the best of our ability. That being said, we need to get some clarity about what Congress intended, a concern that was pretty well laid out in the PVA letter.”

“The Coast Guard should request that Congress make a technical change to the language of last year’s Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act to clarify that regulatory tonnage may be used to determine the applicability of the requirement and settle any further debate over which tonnage measurement scheme should apply,” said Anne Davis Burns, vice president, public affairs, American Waterways Operators.                — Bob Gustafson 

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