Coast Guard Announces New Regulations for Oil Tanker and Barge Traffic in Buzzards Bay

BOSTON – The Coast Guard today announced new regulations for tanker and tank barge combinations that transit through Buzzards Bay, and the establishment of a Vessel Movement Reporting System for larger commercial vessels in the bay.

First Coast Guard District Commander Rear Adm. Tim Sullivan announced the new regulations, which take effect Nov. 28, 2007, in a press conference at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

“As stewards of our marine environment, the Coast Guard is enacting new rules to help protect Buzzards Bay from oil spills. In creating this resolution, the Coast Guard aimed to strike a balance not only between the stakeholders and interest groups involved in Buzzards Bay, but also, our ultimate duties to protect the public, the environment, and the U.S. economic interests” said Rear Admiral Sullivan. “We sought and considered input from a wide-array of stakeholders. While the final rule does not implement all of the proposals made during the development process, we find it is the most prudent course of action to safeguard Buzzards Bay from future oil spills, while minimizing impediments to the flow of interstate commerce, particularly the flow of home heating oil into the Northeast,” said Sullivan.

The purpose of the new rules is to reduce the likelihood of an incident that might result in a collision, allision, or grounding and the aftermath discharge or release of oil or hazardous material into the navigable waters of Buzzards Bay.

Its main provisions are:

  • Single-hulled tank barges transiting Buzzards Bay must be accompanied by escort tugs in addition to a primary tug.
  • A pilot, separate from the vessel’s master and crew and operating under a properly endorsed federal pilot’s license, must be aboard the tug towing single-hulled tank barges transiting Buzzards Bay.
  • A Vessel Movement Reporting System (VMRS) will be established for Buzzards Bay, monitored by the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers. Participation in the VMRS is mandatory for vessels subject to the Vessel Bridge-to-Bridge VHF Radiotelephone regulations, including tug/barge combinations.

Further, recommended navigation routes will remain as recommended, not mandatory, to allow maximum flexibility for masters to meet unusual or challenging situations.

The rule was published today in the Federal Register.

Full text of the regulation.

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