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March 5, 2004

Wrong move on Right Whale can be expensive

The Coast Guard has started enforcing a requirement that ships notify it before entering a Right Whale critical habitat.

The U.K. P&I Club says it has been advised of a recent case where the U.S, Coast Guard cited a ship transiting a 'Right Whale' critical habitat without the ship concerned reporting this movement . The Coast Guard has demanded a $32,000 guarantee from the shipowner pending settlement of the citation.

The 'Northern Right Whale Mandatory Ship Reporting System' was adopted by IMO in December 1998 and under this system, notes the U.K. P&I Club, any commercial vessel of 300 GT or greater must report to the Coast Guard's Communications Area Master Station Atlantic (CAMSLANT) prior to entering a Right Whale critical habitat providing the ships position, course, speed, destination and route to the next port. The purpose of this is to make mariners aware of the existence of the endangered Right Whale habitats.

There are two special Right Whale zones on the east coast of the US. The north east area "Whalenorth" includes the waters of Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts Bay and the Great South Channel east and south east of Massachusetts. The south east area "Whalesouth" is located off the east coast of Florida and Georgia, which includes coastal waters within approximately 25 nautical miles along a 90 nautical mile stretch of the coast, which includes in the zone the ports of Brunswick in Georgia and Jacksonville and Fernandina in Florida.

The U.K. Club is advising members that the Coast Guard has actively started to enforce this regulation and ships failing to provide these reports are now subject to fines.

Phillip A. Buhler of the the U.K. Club's correspondents Moseley, Warren, Prichard & Parrish , Jacksonville, Fla., told MARINE LOG that reporting under the Right Whale System is a requirement that is additional to the advance notice shipowners must give the Coast Guard under new security regulations and a separate report must be filed.

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