JUNE 16, 2014—The U.S. Coast Guard final rule on escort requirements for certain tankers operating on the waters of Prince William Sound, Alaska, was published on June 13, 2014 in the Federal Register.
This rule finalizes the escort requirements in Title 33, Code of Federal Regulations, Part CFR 168, which were previously published as an interim rule Aug. 19, 2013. This final rule mandates two tug escorts for double-hull tankers of more than 5,000 gross tons, transporting oil in bulk in Prince William Sound.
Section 4116(c) of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) required the two-vessel escort system for single-hull tank vessels over 5,000 GT transporting oil in bulk in Prince William Sound. OPA 90 also mandated the phase-out of single-hull tank vessels by January 1, 2015, and required that newly built tank vessels be double hulled.
With the phase-out of the single-hull tank vessels, there would have been no requirement for any tank vessel to have an escort. Section 711 of the act extended the escort system requirement to double-hull tank vessels over 5,000 gross tons transporting oil in bulk in Prince William Sound.
While double-hull tank vessels provide greater protection from oil spills compared to single-hull tank vessels, Section 711 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 further intends to increase the protection of the environment and safety of vessels transiting Prince William Sound.
This final rule codifies the current industry practice of a two tug escort system in Prince William Sound. The final rule eliminates any possible confusion witin industry by harmonizing the Code of Federal Regulations with the United States Code. Codification of the industry practice ensures the continuing environmental and safety benefits of the two tug escort system, which is to reduce the risk of an oil spill by ensuring the safe transit of tank vessels greater than 5,000 gross tons transporting oil in bulk in Prince William Sound.