25 Jan 2019
VIDA & BWMS Reform
On December 4, President Trump signed into law the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 (S. 140). Title IX of the legislation is the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act of 2018 (VIDA). VIDA will largely cut through a morass of conflicting and confusing requirements that have developed over a number of years relating to discharges into US waters. This purpose of this new legislation is to…
18 Dec 2018
French Frigate Shoals: A Canary in the Coal Mine
French Frigate Shoals are located in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, between Kauai and Midway. The atoll consists of a twenty-mile long crescent-shaped reef, with 13 coral and sand islands and the 120-foot high volcanic rock Perouse Pinnacle, named for French explorer Jean-Francois de la Perouse, who charted the atoll in 1786 and nearly grounded his two frigates. Tern Island is the largest, covering 105,276 square meters or 26 acres.
04 Nov 2018
The Forward-Facing Coast Guard
The US Coast Guard has published its Maritime Commerce Strategic Outlook. This forward-facing document should be read by everyone in the Coast Guard and by those associated with the US maritime sector. It is intended to guide the Service’s efforts in securing the strategically critical maritime transportation system (MTS) and the marine environment. To accomplish this, the Coast Guard must be Semper Paratus – Always Ready, as it has been for most of its 228 years.
10 Oct 2018
Liquefaction and Lost Bulk Carriers: Is a Design Change Warranted?
A shocking number of bulk carriers (as well as a few OBOs – ore/bulk/oil carriers) have been suddenly and catastrophically lost at sea in the last 30 years. Following are the names of some of those vessels, in alphabetical order:- Asian Forest (2009); - Black Rose(2009); - Bulk Jupiter (2015); - Derbyshire (1980); - Emerald Star (2017); - Harita Bauxite (2013); - Hong Wei (2010); - Hui Long (2005)…
13 Sep 2018
Maritime Accidents & Confidential near-miss Reporting
As in most if not all industries, the maritime sector experiences many more near-misses than actual casualties. And yet, information regarding near-misses is seldom shared outside the particular company or vessel/facility involved. This is a needless waste of valuable learning opportunities.The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established the first formal confidential near-miss reporting system in the federal government in 1975.
02 Aug 2018
Analysis: Government Proposal 'Ill-informed' on Maritime Matters
On June 22, 2018, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a federal government reorganization proposal entitled “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century”. The 132-page document is subtitled ‘Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations’. I have not read the entire report, but I have examined those portions that relate to maritime issues. I find those portions to be uniformly ill-advised.Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
10 Jul 2018
The EPA's Clean Water Act and Understanding VGP
The Vessel General Permit (VGP) falls under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), better known as the Clean Water Act.
28 Jun 2018
Rerouting a River
The Old River Control Structure and its future implications for the Mighty MississippiPrior to about 1500, the bodies of water now called the Mississippi River and…
21 Jun 2018
Vessel Response Plans: A Primer for the US Waterfront
Congress enacted the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) a mere 17 months after the disastrous oil spill following the grounding of the tanker Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound. Among the many provisions in the voluminous bill was a detailed planning requirement. For the first time, tank vessels and facilities handling oil in bulk were required to develop extensive plans for responding to a worst case discharge of oil into waters of the United States.
10 May 2018
Traditionally, when a ship reached the end of its economic life, the owner sold it, often to a cash buyer, for scrapping with little consideration of the next step. Many ships ended up on a beach in south Asia (India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh) where they were cut apart and the metal was sold for scrap. The working conditions were sometimes dangerous and hazardous to the workers’ health. In addition, little was sometimes done to protect the environment.
24 Apr 2018
Tugboats & Vessel Response Plans
Traditionally, tugs and towboats (hereinafter tugs) have largely been uninspected vessels of the United States. They were subject to basic examinations by the U.S. Coast Guard, but the standards were little higher than those applicable to recreational craft. These tugs were also subject to examination by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The OSHA examinations were rare, but when they took place any violations found could be costly.
19 Mar 2018
The US Government Must Fund Icebreakers Now
Congress last funded the purchase of polar icebreakers for the U.S. Coast Guard in the early 1970s. The USCCG Polar Star (WAGB-10) was commissioned in 1976, followed by the USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB-11) in 1977. Polar Sea has been out of service since 2010 due to a major engine failure. Polar Star was ‘in commission, special’ status from 2008 through 2012 while undergoing a service life extension. It is currently the only active heavy polar icebreaker in the U.S. fleet.
19 Feb 2018
Maritime & Strict Liability Criminal Statutes
There are a number of federal and state statutes that intentionally and justifiably impose strict criminal liability. Persons who manufacture hazardous explosives…
01 Feb 2018
Serious Questions Surround BWMS Testing
Serious questions have been raised regarding the testing of ballast water management systems (BWMSs). In order for a BWMS manufacturer to sell its equipment for use on commercial vessels operating in U.S. waters, the equipment must be tested in accordance with U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements and the equipment must then obtain a type approval certificate from the Coast Guard.
27 Dec 2017
El Faro and Perceived Deficiencies in the ACP
The October 1, 2015 loss of the U.S. cargo vessel El Faro along with its 33 member crew led to the convening of a Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation charged with determining as closely as possible the cause(s) of the casualty; whether there is evidence that any failure of material was involved; whether there is evidence of misconduct, inattention to duty, negligence, or willful violation of law; and whether there is evidence that government personnel contributed to the casualty.
15 Nov 2017
US Navy: Back to Basics
The U.S. Navy has a well-deserved reputation for seamanship in trying conditions. Recently though, the Navy has suffered a series of marine casualties, including the fatal collisions involving two destroyers of the Pacific Fleet. On June 17, USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was involved in a collision with the container ship ACX Crystal off Japan, resulting in the deaths of seven Navy crewmembers.
11 Oct 2017
Marine Casualty Investigation
In the realm of marine casualty investigations the allocation of blame should be secondary to marine safety. There are three important criteria for marine casualty investigations to be of value to the maritime industry. First, the report must be completed promptly. It does little good to see for the first time the report on a casualty that occurred three or more years ago. Second, the report must be publicly disseminated.
07 Sep 2017
Balancing Efficiency & Security as Maritime Goes Digital
Hand in hand with the digital craze in maritime is the caution of cyber attacks. We live and operate in a complex society. That society would be impossible without modern computers and other information technologies Those technologies have largely been developed piecemeal to address particular issues, and for the most part they have generally achieved their particular goals. Maximum efficiency is gained when multiple technologies are joined to coordinate their work.
01 Aug 2017
Salvage and Marine Firefighting
Salvage and marine firefighting are complex response efforts often undertaken in adverse weather and sea conditions. While no two oil spill responses are the same, the diversity of variation between any two oil spill responses is not near as great as the diversity of any two salvage and marine firefighting responses. As a result, salvage and marine firefighting response providers must plan for and…
27 Jun 2017
Melting Sea Ice: A Canary in the Coal Mine
The rapid loss of Arctic sea ice is a sentinel. Most of us will never venture into the Arctic, but it can and does provide us with a forewarning of impacts coming to our parts of the Earth – and some of the most significant impacts will directly affect the maritime industry. In earlier times, coal miners were sometimes overcome by the buildup of odorless carbon monoxide gas. Some died as a consequence. Eventually it was realized that canaries were more susceptible to the gas than were humans.