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USCG Issues Spill Response Guidelines

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) issued regulations requiring certain U.S.-flag ships to carry on board approved shipboard oil pollution emergency plans. The plans are designed to improve the ships' responses to oil spills and minimize their impact on the environment. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the regulations apply to U.S.-flag oil tankers of 150-gt or more and all other U.S.- flag ships other than tankers of400- gt or more. The plans must cover contingencies ranging from suspected spills up to discharges of the ship's complete cargo.

In addition, foreign oil tankers of 150-gt or more and other foreign ships of 400-gt or more are required by the rule to carry evidence of compliance with the regulation when traveling in the navigable waters of the U.S.

The rule implements international requirements that became effective for new U.S. ships and will be applied to existing ships beginning April 4, 1995.

Under Regulation 26 of the International Convention for the Prevention of Oil Spills, the plans must be prepared according to guidelines developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and are to consist of an outline of the following: (i) procedures for reporting pollution incidents; (ii) a list of authorities to contact in the event of an accident; (iii) a detailed description of the actions to be taken immediately by persons on board to reduce or control the discharge of oil following an incident; and (iv) a procedure for coordinating response efforts with national and local authorities.

According to the USCG, some of the provisions contained in the rule are similar to those of the vessel response plan interim final rule (VRP-IFR) published on February 5, 1993 under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

However, the Regulation 26 requirements, the agency said, "are not as demanding as those established by the VRP-IFR and will not require formalized arrangements such as pre-executed contracts at each port a ship enters.




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