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USCG Approves First Oil Spill Response Plans

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has begun approving oil spill response plans for private companies, as mandated by OPA 90. The first approval was for Naess Shipping Company BV of Holland, while the first approval for a U.S. company was for Coastal Towing, Inc., a Houston tank barge company.

Any foreign or domestic vessel operator — from supertankers to barges — planning to carry oil in U.S. waters has been required via OPA 90 to submit its plans to the USCG in 1993 for review and approval. The plans must include detailed response measures to be taken in the event that some or all of a vessel's petroleum cargo is released into U.S. waters.

Adm. Arthur E. Henn, chief of Headquarters' Office of Marine Safety, Security and Environmental Protection was joined by Knut S. Bjerke, president of Naess Shipping, as well as company and USCG officials in a Headquarters ceremony to mark the first approval.

"This is only the first," USCG Capt.Michael J. Donohoe, branch chief for Headquarters' Marine Environmental Protection Division, said of the Naess approval. "Presently, we are processing over 1,700 plans for more than 7,000 vessels, and we expect additional approvals in the near future." True to that statement, announcements of the Coastal Towing approval followed about a week later. The USCG expects a complete review of the vessel response plans currently being processed by August 1994, and it continues to receive five to eight additional plans per week.

Coastal Towing has created a response team at its Houston headquarters to activate the company's plan in the event of a spill. Its response will include environmental protection, clean-up, and other specialized emergency services. The company has a network of response contractors along the Gulf Coast and throughout the central U.S., and conducts regular spill drills to maintain preparedness. Each vessel carries a copy of the response plan.

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