Coast Guard Asks for Waterway Users Help to Prevent Oil Sheens

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – As warmer temperatures arrive, Alaskans are seeing an early break up of winter snow and ice. The waterways are beginning to free up and many boaters will begin pulling boats out of storage for operation.

During these first months of return to waterborne activities, Alaskan waters tend to see an increase in reported mystery oil sheens. A mystery oil sheen is sheen that has an undetermined or unknown source.

Capt. Mark DeVries, Sector Commander Coast Guard Sector Anchorage and Captain of the Port for Western Alaska wants “to bring boater’s attention to these sheens and how they might be prevented.”

“Every spring we see an increased number of sheens and many of them come from washing a boat or from dirty snow run off into the bays. We need the assistance of all waterway users to minimize these occurrences,” said DeVries.

The Coast Guard would like to remind boaters of simple measures that can limit the number of these sheens created and also improve the safety of their voyages.

The Coast Guard recommends that vessel operators:

  • When draining and changing out fluids, drain fluids into approved containers and take them to a waste/used oil disposal facility.
  • Clean residue from bilge and hull; when spraying out – control run off and properly dispose of residues.
  • Thoroughly examine the material condition of all through hull fittings, hoses, and out drive for deterioration. Replace worn and weathered parts as required. Water not entirely drained or sitting in fittings that freezes can damage fittings resulting in flooding when that frozen water thaws.
  • Double clamp all hoses and ensure boat plugs are in place.
  • Install high water alarm in bilge to provide for early detection of a problem. This simple measure can save your investment.
  • Install a sufficient high capacity bilge pump(s) to meet worst case possibilities.
  • Travel and operate in pairs. This provides an increase measure of safety if an incident occurs. If operating alone or in remote areas, a life raft or survival craft, EBIRB, and portable means of communication are highly recommended.
  • Routinely practice emergency procedures for fire, flooding, man-over board, and basic damage control. Carry a damage control kit on board and know how to use it. Charter associations should contact Coast Guard Sector Command to request training using the Coast Guard portable, hands-on damage control simulator.

To obtain a free courtesy exam:

  • For some passenger vessels or recreational boaters contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary or Sector Command to request a free dockside UPV examination. If you meet all qualifications, you will be issued a UPV Safety Equipment decal. For information on the program, go to http://www.mxak.org/fivestar/5star.htm.
  • Getting a courtesy dockside exam can save time during a boarding and reduce the risk of the vessel’s voyage being terminated. Mariners interested in the dockside exam program can contact the Coast Guard’s Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinator at:
      • Juneau/ Southeast Alaska: 1-800-478-7369 or (907) 463-2810.
      • Anchorage/ South Central and Western Alaska: (907) 271-1954.
  •   For inspected passenger vessels the same operations and procedures are recommended. If you have an inspection due please contact the inspectors in your area.

Call for Assistance: All vessels in distress are reminded to notify Coast Guard immediately via cell phone (*CG), VHF CH16, DMGSS or other available means. This will ensure search and rescue agencies and resources are rapidly alerted and dispatched as required by the incident.

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