Feature: Barge Movement Tracking of Certain Dangerous Cargoes (CDCs) Mandated

Monday, July 07, 2003

On May 2, 2003, the USCG published two Temporary Final Rules establishing Regulated Navigation Areas (RNAs) in the Federal Register governing the movement (by barge) of Certain Dangerous Cargoes (CDCs) upon the inland rivers of the Eighth Coast Guard District and the Illinois Waterway System in the Ninth Coast Guard District. The rules will apply from April 16, 2003, until October 31, 2003.

Any movement of CDCs by barge within the waters specified must be reported to the Inland River Vessel Movement Center (IRVMC) by telephone, fax, or e-mail.

The USCG indicates that no Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published as this notice falls under the exemption to the Administrative Procedures Act contained in the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002. The Coast Guard also references the recent MarAd advisory informing maritime operators of increased threat potential to vessels and facilities; and an elevated risk of terrorist attacks to the U.S. transportation community. The Coast Guard also cites national security and intelligence officials warning that future terrorist attacks against U.S. interests are likely.

If the national security and intelligence officials are correct, and the U.S. maritime transportation infrastructure is at risk, one must ask why only these high interest commodities transported in the inland rivers of the Mississippi Basin and the Illinois River are referred to in the Rules. Why not the commodities moved by barge in New York Harbor, Houston Ship Channel, Puget Sound or Intracoastal Waterways around the country? Does this mean that the chemicals shipped by barge in the central section of the United States are more at risk than chemicals shipped elsewhere? Curious, isn't it?

What are CDCs?

CDCs represent the high level interest cargoes that the government believes may become involved with a national terrorist incident. They include:

• Special bulk shipments that require special handling permits:

• Explosives (>100 mt)

• Blasting agents (>100 mt)

• Poisonous gas (>1 mt)

• Ammonium Nitrate (explosive grade)(>100 mt)

• Poisonous material - by inhalation (>20 mt)

• Radioactive material - highway route controlled

• Bulk liquefied chlorine & bulk liquefied gas that is flammable and/or toxic

• Certain particularly nasty chemicals - carried in bulk

• Acetone cyanohydrin

• Allyl alcohol

• Chlorosulfonic acid

• Crotonaldehyde

• Ethylene chlorohydrin

• Ethylene dibromide

• Methacrylonitrile

• Oleum (fuming sulfuric acid)

• Propylene oxide

Movement Reporting

The reports the USCG requires are to be made by the barge operator by telephone, fax, or e-mail to the IRVMC in St. Louis. The term operator is defined as ". . . any person, including but not limited to an owner, charterer, or contractor, who conducts, or is responsible for, the operation of a barge." This probably can only mean the person/company who has control of the barge. It is presumed that this will probably include, at various times, chemical plants or end product user, barge fleets, line towboat operators and possibly others.

The list of movements that must be reported is truly extraordinary. The government wants to know the following:

• Name of barge & towboat,

• Name of loading, fleeting and terminal facility,

• ETA & ETD from loading, fleeting and terminal facility,

• Planned route(s),

• Each of the following: four hours prior to loading, dropping off, picking up or getting under way a covered barge

• Entry into the inland river area,

• ETA at approximately 148 designated reporting points within the inland river system,

• Any change of ETA by more than 6 hours,

• Any significant deviation from previously reported information,

• Upon arrival at the barge point of discharge,

• Upon leaving the inland river system

• Whenever directed by the USCG.

The notification rule excludes empty CDC barges, but only if they are certified gas free by a Marine Chemist. This is at least somewhat out of touch with reality because most, if not all, gas free certificates are no longer valid as soon as the vessel gets underway. This will tend to overload the tracking system with unnecessary, irrelevant data. While empty non-gas-free barges are certainly a safety concern, their national security/terrorism risk is not considered a high-priority issue by many knowledgeable in the field, especially given the much greater potential for malicious activity targeting CDC-laden barges or vessels.

The mass of data desired by the Coast Guard seems to be far in excess of that needed for the government to protect these chemical barges. The increased amount of specific movement and location information floating around concerning CDCs would seem to decrease security, because of the increased quantity of data involved, rather than any possible increase in security. Extensive information will necessarily be transmitted to and from various company locations by cell phone, radio, and data links in preparation for reporting the information to the USCG. Strong informational security (INFOSEC) policies are not necessarily employed by all operators, so the potential for electronic eavesdropping by persons of malicious intent increases with every link added to the data transmission chain.

How will the USCG use these reports of CDC movement to protect specific CDCs shipments? To not comply with the regulations would be a violation of law. Barge operators will necessarily have to continuously monitor CDC barge information to keep the Coast Guard informed of mandated vessel positions and ETAs or pay civil penalties when errors occur. Does the potential risk of processing this information within a company and formatting it in the specific manner desired by the USCG increase the likelihood of the information getting into the hands the very terrorists we need to be protected from? It certainly seems possible.

It appears, to us, that the fewer people that have knowledge of specific shipments, the better. This is not to say that the USCG doesn't have a need to know, but rather that the fewer individuals that know the specific movements of these CDCs in barges, the safer the shipments are.

One should ask whether these reports of CDC movement should be put in a form less likely to lead to unintentional dissemination of this information to those that do not have a need to know.

About the Author

Charley Havnen is a Commander USCG Ret. His organization can help you with your vessel construction project, regulatory problems, vessel manning issues, procedure manuals, accident analysis or serve as an expert witness. His organization can do what you can't or don't want to do, and are online at http://www.havnengroup.com. He can also be reached by contacting the Havnen Group in New Orleans: (800) 493-3883 or (504) 394-8933, fax: (504) 394-8869.

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