Barges to face new rules when using Buzzards Bay

We could use a similar reg in WA.  Fred
The Coast Guard to detail its new regulations today
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff  |  August 30, 2007

Single-hulled barges carrying oil through Buzzards Bay will have to be accompanied by a second tugboat acting as a backup to rescue the barge if it goes adrift, under Coast Guard regulations to be unveiled today.

The rules will be detailed by Coast Guard officials at a press conference today at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne.

Buzzards Bay has been the scene of several major tank barge groundings and breaches, including an April 2003 spill of 98,000 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil.

The regulations, which apply to tank barges carrying 5,000 barrels of oil or more, will take effect Nov. 28, in time for peak heating season.

They also require that a federally licensed pilot join the crew on the primary tugboat when a barge is traveling through the area.

Chief Petty Officer Amy Thomas, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, had no comment on the new rules.

The new rules are to be published today in the Federal Register, the official daily publication for federal regulations. A copy was available for review yesterday at the Office of the Federal Register in Washington.

Activists had sought a tougher rule, including escort tugs for both single-hulled and double-hulled tank barges.

But the Coast Guard said in its regulation that it believed double hulls provide enough protection against spills and, combined with the new regulations, would “provide a sufficient measure of safety.”

The Coast Guard took its action as the state and the federal government are battling in federal court over a state law, passed after the 2003 oil spill, that tightened regulations on oil shipping in Buzzards Bay.

The state law included minimum requirements for watch and crew staffing and a requirement for escort tugs for all tank barges. The federal government has argued that the state does not have the authority to impose such regulations.

A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection did not immediately return a message seeking comment. C. Jonathan Benner, a Washington lawyer who represents the oil shipping industry, said he had not read the regulation yet, but emphasized that the Coast Guard, not the state, was the right entity to be issuing the new rules.

“While there may be elements of this we have reservations about, we have no problem, generally, with strong, effective federal regulation,” he said.

~ by fredfelleman on August 30, 2007.

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