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Coast Guard Considers Seven Port Zones For Establishing New Vessel Tracking System

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (PL. 101-380) directed the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a study to prioritize the U.S. ports and channels that are in need of new, expanded, or improved Vessel Tracking Systems (VTS). Research Special Programs Administration's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center conducted the study, called the Port Needs Study, between February 1990 and July 1991 at a cost of $2.8 million. The Secretary of Transportation submitted the study to Congress in March 1992.

The act required that the study prioritize the U.S. ports and channels by evaluating • t h e nature, volume, and frequency of vessel traffic; •the risk of collisions, spills, and damages associated with that traffic; • the impact of installing, expanding, or improving a VTS system; and • all other relevant costs and data. The Port Needs Study prioritized the need for Vessel Tracking Systems in U.S. ports and channels by establishing preliminary budget and benefit estimates for the Coast Guard to use in determining where to establish or improve VTS systems. For comparison purposes, the study grouped 82 major U.S. ports and their adjacent bays, rivers, seaward approaches, and other bodies of water into 23 port zones. Prince William Sound, the site of the Valdez oil spill, was not included in the study because the Congress had already legislated the expansion and improvement of the Prince William Sound VTS system in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. These ports load and unload 80 percent, by tonnage, of all U.S. international and domestic cargo. The study identified seven of the 23 port zones as the areas the Coast Guard should initially consider when determining where to establish or improve Vessel Tracking Systems.

The study prioritized the 23 port zones by developing benefit and cost estimates of potential U.S. Coast Guard VTS systems in each port zone. The Coast Guard's plans for installing and improving VTS systems, as indicated by its fiscal year 1993 budget request, are consistent with the study's recommendation. Ninety-one percent of the $26.8 million that the Coast Guard requested for fiscal year 1993 to establish and improve VTS systems is earmarked for the identified port zones. The Coast Guard currently estimates that it will cost $145 million in investment funds through fiscal year 2001 to establish or improve VTS systems in these port zones and eight others identified by the study, and to improve other existing Coast Guard-operated Vessel Tracking Systems.

Cost estimates for each port zone were based on initial investment costs and annual operation and maintenance costs. Total costs for an individual VTS system range from $6 million for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to $37 million for New Orleans, Louisiana. The total cost estimate for all 23 port zones is $327 million. Investment costs were estimated by developing a "candidate" VTS system for each port zone.

The candidate VTS system's design is a preliminary engineering design made for the purpose of developing cost estimates that are consistent and comparable among the 23 port zones. Each candidate system employs state-of-the-art equipment and provides surveillance for the entire port zone. For comparison purposes, initial investment costs were assumed to be committed in fiscal year 1993 and operation and maintenance costs were estimated from fiscal year 1996, when the study assumes for comparison purposes that the systems will become operational, through fiscal year 2010. All costs are discounted back to 1993.

Benefit estimates for each port zone were based on the cost of vessel accidents and associated consequences expected to be prevented by the candidate VTS system. The estimates were based on a statistical analysis of historical vessel accidents and the unique navigational features of each port zone to determine the probability of vessel accidents occurring in each port zone.

The total benefit estimate for all 23 port zones is $806 million.

The study predicts that the candidate systems would prevent $1.6 billion in damage caused by hazardous commodity spills between 1996 and 2010.

Emergency Response The dollar value of emergency responses to vessel accidents is estimated by the type of vessel and the type of response required. The study predicts that the candidate systems would prevent $10.4 million in emergency response costs between 1996 and 2010.

Figure 2 shows the locations of the seven port zones currently being considered under VTS 2000 and the eight VTS systems the Coast Guard operates (Houston/Galveston is included in both categories.) The Coast Guard is focusing its efforts on establishing new VTS systems primarily in the seven port zones identified by the Port Needs Study as the areas that the Coast Guard should consider initially. The Coast Guard is using a benefit/cost analysis to determine the specific areas of the port zones to be monitored and its professional judgement to determine the performance specifications of the systems. The study divided each of the 23 port zones into subzones based on water-body type, such as river, enclosed harbor, or constricted waterway. Each port zone contains between one and ten subzones. There are a total of 99 subzones. The Coast Guard is using a benefit/cost analysis to determine which subzones (or portions of subzones) to monitor with remote sensors.

Regarding benefits, the Coast Guard is developing estimates using the computer model developed for the Port Needs Study. Although the study used this model to calculate the benefits of a VTS system for entire port zones, the model can also be used to estimate benefits by subzone.

Regarding costs, estimates are based on the cost of a Vessel Tracking Center (VTC), the cost of equipment to monitor the subzone(s) (i.e., remote sensors, communications equipment, and other equipment), and operation and maintenance costs. Coast Guard officials said that the cost of a VTC makes up a substantial portion of the total cost of a VTS system and is not significantly affected by the number of subzones being monitored.

The Coast Guard has decided tht Vessel Tracking Systems should achieve as close to a zero-accident rate as possible under normal circumstances and conditions in the areas being monitored. Officials also said that the VTS systems are being designed to func tion adequately under most circum stances likely to be encountered i) the particular area being monitored For example, in ports where heav rain is common, a radar systen would be used that could operatt adequately in heavy rain. However in ports where heavy rain is rart and/or vessels do not typically op erate in such weather, a radar with out that capability would be used Officials also said that in certair areas that are particularly danger ous, redundant coverage (e.g., th use of two radars to monitor a singl area in case one radar becomes in operative) may be appropriate. Thej added, however, that in most cases redundant coverage would be excessive. The Coast Guard's actions in selecting ports for establishing or improving VTS systems are consistent with the Port Needs Study. Ninetyone percent of the $26.8 million it requested for fiscal year 1993 to establish or improve VTS systems was requested for VTS 2000. The Coast Guard is using a benefit/cost approach to determine the specific areas of port zones to be monitored by the VTS systems it is establishing under VTS 2000.

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