SALVAGE AND MARINE FIREFIGHTING RULEMAKING - PUBLIC HEARING IN PHILADELPHIA

This proposed rulemaking is part of the OPA 90 driven regulations. The NPRM suggests a revision of current Vessel Response Plans (VRP) to include contractual pre-arrangements with providers for salvage and firefighting. Of particular concern is the proposed requirement that shipowners have to take the responsibility of assessing whether the service providers are up to the standards required. The USCG has scheduled 3 public meetings. INTERTANKO attended the second Hearing in Philadelphia on 17 July.

The USCG, ship operators, barge operators, salvors, fire fighters and consultants were all represented at the meeting, totaling approximately 45-50 people.

In addition to the 12 statements put forward (ship/barge operators - 4; salvors - 2 and fire fighters - 6), there were a few comments from the audience. Following is a breakdown of the statements and discussions:

  

General

 

- OPA 90 has no provisions to request detailed criteria of the salvage and firefighting capability. The USCG has failed to provide a justification of the provisions in the NPRM and failed in their cost-benefit analysis. The latter was assessed against the casualties before 1997 and did not take into account the current very low number of pollution incidents from tank vessels.

- It is debatable whether the tanker industry should  carry the entire burden of supporting the development of a new salvage industry. (It is our view that the NPRM makes a great mistake by using the New Carissa as an example in their argumentation to justify the NPRM).

- Tankers’ VRPs have demonstrated to be very efficient and they should suffice.

- The discussions demonstrated that the issue of salvage and the issue of firefighting have two different approaches and it seems that this need to be clarified in the NPRM

 

Salvage

 

- There is a need for a greater salvage capability in US, but most of the comments from the ship operators indicated a disagreement with the solutions presented in this NPRM;

- The American Salvage Association (ASA) has 11 members and there might be a few others capable of providing professional salvage assistance. Their problem is the low number of salvage operations and the lack of resources. The real question is therefore who could provide finance for the salvors.

- The President of ASA made a direct appeal to the USCG - do not leave the salvage industry out of the OPA 90 requirements. He invited American Waterways Operators, the Chamber of Shipping of America and INTERTANKO to a dialogue to find solutions.

- Reference was also made to the danger of other States following California, in developing their own regulation, should the USCG fail to do so.

 

Firefighting

 

- There was a general consensus on the need for more resources and expert assistance to the local fire fighting capability, in order for them to deal with fire onboard ships. Everyone also agreed that a fire onboard requires an immediate and well-planned intervention. 

- Although the NPRM suggests that the service providers should primarily be private businesses, the fire fighters on Delaware River do not seem willing to give up their jurisdiction and thus, they are determined to retain the command in case of fire on ships

- They agree with the NPRM that there is a need for a local/US coordinator representing the ship owner. They did, however, fail to mention whether they agree with the NPRM's provision that the standards they provide have to be assessed by ship owners/vessel response plan holders.

- The fire fighters seemed to regard fire onboard ships carrying hazardous materials as more dangerous to the local communities than fire at onshore installations, which process the same hazardous materials.

 

The meeting concluded that there is an agreement on the need for good planning, but there seemed to be a serious difference of opinion on provisions that would make such a planning an efficient tool without being driven by commercial interests. For more information, please contact Dragos Rauta, e-mail: dragos.rauta@intertanko.com