U.S.A. – response plans for non-tank vessels

18 March 2005 No.520
On February 4, 2005 the U.S. Coast Guard(USCG)issued interim guidance for the development and review of oil spill response plans for non-tank vessels. For your easy reference, we are summarizing the key points hereunder. The guidance, Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular No.01-05 is available on the following USCG's website.

    1.Statutory deadline for submission

      On August 9, 2004 the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004(The Act)was enacted. The Act amends a part of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act(FWPCA)to require the USCG to issue regulations that require an owner or operator of a non-tank vessel to prepare and submit to the USCG a plan for responding to the oil spill. Section 701(c) of the Act also requires that these response plans be prepared and submitted to the USCG no later than one year after the date of enactment of the Act, i.e. by August 8, 2005.
    2.Definition of non-tank vessels

      Non-tank vessel is defined as a self-propelled vessel of 400 gross tons or greater, other than a tank vessel, that carries oil of any kind as fuel for main propulsion and that is either a vessel of the United States or a foreign vessel that operates on the navigable waters of the United States.
    3.The contents to be incorporated

      Under the amended FWPCA a response plan must -
      1)Be consistent with the requirements of the National Contingency Plan and AreaContingency Plans;
      2)Identify the qualified individual having full authority to implement removal actions, and require immediate communications between that individual and the appropriate Federal official and the persons providing personnel and equipment pursuant to paragraph3) below;
      3)Identify and ensure by contract or other means approved by the USCG the availability of private personnel and equipment necessary to remove to the maximum extent practicable a worst case discharge (including a discharge resulting from fire or explosion), and to mitigate or prevent a substantial threat of such adischarge;
      4)Describe the training, equipment testing, periodic unannounced drills, and response actions of persons on the vessel, to be carried out under the plan to ensure the safety of the vessel and to mitigate or prevent the discharge, or the substantial threat of a discharge;
      5)Be updated periodically; and
      6)Be resubmitted for approval of each significant change.
    4.Authorization letter

      The USCG intends to issue the regulations as required by the Act but not yet. Until the regulations are in effect, the USCG may issue a two year authorization letter authorizing a non-tank vessel to operate without an approved response plan if the plan submitted meets the requirements of paragraph 3. above.

      As the USCG expects to receive a large number of response plans, it may be unable to review by August 8, 2005 all of the plans in the detail sufficient for a two year authorization letter. In order to avoid a disruption in vessel operations, the USCG may issue an interim authorization letter until its review is completed. However, since it may still take up to one month to issue interim letters, we would recommend the relevant Members to prepare and submit their vessel response plans as soon as possible. Until superseded by regulations, non-tank vessels must have a valid interim authorization letter or valid authorization letter in order to operate on or after August 9, 2005.

      Please contact our underwriting group if you have questions.