The USCG has issued an interim rule requiring anchors and emergency retrieval systems on tank barges and the vessels towing them in coastal and Great Lakes service. In a significant change from the October 1997 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), the rule requires all single-hulled tank barges operating on the U.S. territorial sea, the Great Lakes, Long Island Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and parts of Puget Sound, be equipped with an operable anchor system.
In addition, both single- and double-hulled tank barges and the vessels towing them must be equipped with an emergency retrieval system, such as an emergency towline or an Orville Hook. The rule also requires equipment be maintained and inspected regularly, and crewmembers be trained and drilled in its use.
The emergency retrieval provisions of the rule take effect March 30, 1999; the anchor requirements are slated to take effect on December 11, 2000. The USCG will accept comments on the interim rule until March 30.
The October 1997 NPRM had proposed affected tank barges and towing vessels comply
with one of three options for regaining control of a drifting barge: an operable anchor system (proposed as an option for manned barges only), an emergency retrieval system, or an alternative measure or combination of measures approved by the Commandant.
The USCG's decision to change its approach was driven by a significant amount of public comment in support of requiring anchors as a baseline measure for all tank barges.
The interim rule is core component of a four-part USCG response to the January 1996 North Cape spill. The other components include a permanent regulated navigation area in the waters of the First USCG District (see MarineNews, January 25, 1999); a forthcoming interim rule establishing fire protection requirements for inland and coastal towing vessels
; and a forthcoming supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) seeking comment on the establishment of voyage planning standards and the possibility of more stringent fire protection requirements for towing vessels, such as the installation of fixed fire suppression systems. Both the interim rule and the SNPRM are tentatively slated for publication in the first quarter of 1999.