Tank vessel response plan (VRP) regulations for vessels carrying oil, in place since 1993, require vessel owners or operators to identify in their VRPs a salvage company with expertise and equipment, and a company with firefighting capability, which will respond in the event of a discharge. As originally promulgated by the Coast Guard, these requirements were to become more stringent after an initial five-year phase-in period.

Effective February 1998, planholders were to have been required to ensure that the salvage and firefighting resources identified in the plan were capable of being deployed to the port nearest the spill site within 24 hours. Before the 24-hour requirement could take effect, however, the Coast Guard suspended the provision until February 2001 and again suspended it for a second time until February 2004 to allow time for completion of the ongoing rulemaking project. It is likely that the 24-hour requirement will eventually be superseded and replaced by the new requirements proposed in the NPRM.

Current Status

The Coast Guard published on 10 May 2002 a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would replace the suspended 24-hour requirement with more detailed standards for salvage and firefighting resources. In mid-2000, the Coast Guard circulated a concept paper and sought industry comment on the costs and benefits of one possible approach to the issue. The approach outlined in the paper was highly prescriptive, setting forth very specific response times, capability requirements, and contracting provisions. The Coast Guard has used feedback from tank vessel owners and operators and salvage and firefighting companies to refine its proposed approach and develop the NPRM.

Brief Content of the proposal

As a general remark, we note that the USCG does not intend to classify the adequacy of salvage and marine firefighting resource providers to meet the regulations, as it currently does with oil spill removal organizations. This would place administrative effort on plan holders to demonstrate compliance with salvage and marine firefighting requirements. The proposed rule suggests that:

**shipowners (planholders) would need to identify in their VRPs a salvage and a marine firefighting resource provider(s)

**these providers have the capability to perform to a certain degree indicated by the NPRM

**planholders and providers sign a contract and a ‘written funding agreement’

**planholders would be responsible for determining the adequacy of the providers' resources (NPRM lists a number of 13 criteria for such an assessment)

**a waiver will be granted in exceptional cases, where no private or public providers are available or are in compliance with the standards required

**the VRPs should be updated for each tanker six months after the publication of the Final Rule.

Preliminary indications are that the cost implications are very substantial and that these need to be carefully reviewed in the required cost benefit analysis.

INTERTANKO Position and Strategy

INTERTANKO will make an assessment of this rule and submit comments. Our assessment will be made available to members shortly, but we encourage all members to consider the proposal and submit comments at their earliest convenience. The deadline for submitting comments to USCG is set for 8 August 2002.

A copy of the NPRM can be viewed here

Contact: Svein R. Ringbakken, or Dragos Rauta,