NAVSAC Meets in San Diego

Thursday, January 17, 2002
The Coast Guard's Navigation Safety Advisory Council (NAVSAC) met in San Diego, Calif., on December 10-12, 2001. The agenda included a discussion of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) activities, maritime security challenges, an overview of Coast Guard aids to navigation (ATONs), automatic information systems (AIS), federal and state ballast water and aquatic nuisance initiatives, International Safety Management Code (ISM) implementation and barge lighting and recreational boating incidents.

Captain David McFarland, Director of the Office of Coast Survey, NOAA, provided the Council with an overview of NOAA's efforts to conduct surveys of the nation's ports and produce electronic charts and shoreline maps. Due to a substantial increase in NOAA's budget, many of the survey programs are completed and a significant amount of coastal storm research is underway. NOAA anticipates re-surveying major ports every five years and has reactivated vessels and embarked on a "new build" program. Information gathered to date is available on NOAA's Web site at www.chartmaker.ncd.noaa.gov and includes Coast Pilot, electronic charts, shoreline data and a bathometric database.

Mike Sollosi, chief, office of vessel traffic management, Coast Guard Headquarters discussed maritime security initiatives implememted post September 11, 2001. The Coast Guard, in conjunction with several legislative proposals, is now considering measures to implement vessel security plans, identification cards for mariners, tighter terminal security oversight and a means of gathering better information on cargo and containers transported on the nation's waterways. Several Captains of the Port have initiated security measures to address the specific dynamics of vessel traffic and cargo movements in their areas of responsibility, such as security zones and regulated navigation areas.

Commander Michael Husak, chief, short range aids to navigation, office of vessel traffic management, described the Coast Guard plans to make the Local Notice to Mariners available electronically and to discontinue the mailing of the notice to maritime interest groups. CDR Husak indicated that there will be a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register in early 2002 and that the mailing of notices would be discontinued within 12-24 months thereafter. CDR Husak also described an initiative to accelerate the vessel carriage requirement for an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and to publish a proposed rule in 2002 with full implementation of the carriage requirement tentatively scheduled for 2004. The Council discussed the variety of issues presented by the ballast water and invasive species initiatives currently underway on both the federal and state level. The Council urged the Coast Guard to develop a standard to measure the effectiveness of treatment modalities or ballast water discharge measures and to take all reasonable steps to dissuade individual states from developing their own regulations.

Captain Tony Rodriguez, maritime attorney, provided an overview of the International Safety Management (ISM) program adopted by IMO in 1994 through the addition of Chapter 9 to the Safety of Life at Sea Act. In 1998, the ISM program was made applicable to all passenger vessels, high-speed vessels, oil and chemical tankers on international voyages and such vessels must be in compliance with the ISM program by July 2002. ISM focuses on safety at sea; prevention of human injury; and, the prevention of damage to the environment and property. ISM requires a vessel specific safety plan and a designated individual within the company to ensure compliance with the plan. Captain Rodriguez cautioned Council members that materials gathered during the course of a self-audit are not protected in civil litigation. Several members voiced concern about the ISM certification process in terms of cost, time and the expanding nature of the requirements as interpreted by the classification societies. In response to a request from the Boating Safety Advisory Council (BSAC), the Council once again considered the adequacy of barge lighting and incidents with recreational boaters. Generally, the Council is reluctant to propose any changes in the Rules of the Road given the widespread impact on a specific segment of the maritime industry and the requisite approval time needed for a Coast Guard rulemaking and IMO approval. Although no specific correlation between the number of incidents and barge lighting could be discerned from the Coast Guard database, the fact that recreational boating incidents often result in the loss of life was a cause of concern to the Council. All members of the Council agreed that the primary focus of BSAC must be on an education program designed to familiarize the recreational boater with the Rules of the Road as well as the variety of configurations of commercial vessels. Without an effective education program, the Council concluded that no amount of lights aboard a vessel would prevent incidents from occurring between recreational and commercial vessels. AWO urged the Council to advise BSAC of AWO's Lifelines brochure and offered to make copies available for distribution. The Council further agreed to consult with AWO members on new technology in lighting equipment that may enhance the visibility of a tug/barge unit and highlight the profile of such equipment. NAVSAC is scheduled to meet in Portland, Maine in June 2002. A complete transcript of the meeting and the resolutions considered by the Council will be available soon. Source: AWO Newsletter

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