Salvage and Firefighting Proposal Would Cost $500 Million

Thursday, May 23, 2002
A new Coast Guard proposal that would require tank vessel owners to augment their spill response plans with prearranged salvage and firefighting resources would cost industry nearly half a billion dollars to implement, the Coast Guard estimates. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), published in the May 10 Federal Register, is intended to stimulate the development of a robust private salvage and firefighting capability in the United States. The NPRM would require holders of approved tank vessel response plans to amend their plans to included pre-contracted access to an extensive suite of salvage and firefighting resources, all capable of being on scene within specified response times. Current regulations, in place since 1993, require tank vessel response plan holders to identify a salvage company with expertise and equipment and a company with firefighting capability that will respond in the event of a discharge. The Coast Guard had intended to ratchet up that requirement after an initial five-year phase-in period, requiring that salvage and firefighting resources be capable of being deployed within 24 hours to the port nearest the spill site. However, the Coast Guard suspended the 24-hour requirement before it could take effect, based on concerns that it might not be achievable and that it was not specific enough to provide meaningful guidance to planholders. The May 10 NPRM takes a dramatically different approach, requiring planholders to ensure access, by contract or other approved means, to private providers of salvage and firefighting services. Planholders must ensure that the contractors identified are capable of providing the following resources or services within specified time frames: Salvage assessment and survey: remote assessment and consultation, on-site salvage assessment, assessment of structural stability, and hull and bottom survey. Stabilization: emergency towing, salvage plan, external emergency transfer operations, emergency lightering, other refloating methods, making temporary repairs, and diving services support. Specialized salvage operations: special salvage operations plan, heavy lift, and subsurface product removal. Marine firefighting: remote assessment and consultation, on-site fire assessment, external firefighting teams, and external vessel firefighting systems. Planholders must ensure that salvage and firefighting resources are integrated into the response organization and coordinated with other spill response resources, and that resource providers have adequate experience, training, and capability. The Coast Guard does not plan to develop a classification system for salvage and firefighting resources as it has done for oil spill removal organizations (OSROs). The NPRM would allow a planholder who is unable to locate a resource provider who can meet the required response times to request a temporary waiver from the Coast Guard. The waiver request must explain why the planholder is unable to meet the requirements, how the planholder intends to correct the shortfall and the time it will take to do so, and what arrangements have been to ensure the availability of the necessary response resources in the interim. The Coast Guard estimates that compliance with the NPRM will cost some $491 million between now and 2030. Most of these costs -- about $450 million -- will be incurred by salvage and firefighting service providers to acquire the equipment and personnel necessary to meet the new requirements. These costs will likely be passed on to vessel owners and operators in the form of contracting fees, the Coast Guard acknowledges. The Coast Guard will accept comments on the proposed rule until August 8 and plans to hold several public meetings at locations and dates to be announced later. AWO will convene a member working group to assess the impact of the NPRM on inland and coastal tank barge operators and will participate vigorously in the rulemaking process. Source: AWO Letter
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