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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment CHAPTER 4 Vessel Traffic, Accidents, and Spills in the Aleutians This chapter summarizes available historical information on vessel traffic, movement of hazardous goods, accidents, and spills in the Aleutian region. These data, while not all-inclusive, serve as a starting point for the committee’s recommended Phase A Preliminary Risk Assessment. This chapter also reviews the sources of these data, the quality and reliability of the data, and the potential availability of additional data for use in future risk assessment efforts. Finally, the chapter summarizes the regulatory framework for navigation in the Aleutian region. VESSEL TRAFFIC Vessel Types A variety of vessels operate in the Aleutian Islands, ranging from small local supply barges, to vessels associated with the fishing trade, to cargo vessels transiting the area to or from Pacific Coast ports. For purposes of a risk assessment of shipping operations in the Aleutians, this vessel traffic can be divided into two broad categories.
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment The first category results from the substantial and growing maritime trade between the United States and Asia. Many of the vessels trading between northern Asia and the northern Pacific Coast ports of the United States and Canada follow the Great Circle Route through Unimak Pass at the eastern end of the Aleutian Islands chain. The pass is just west of Unimak Island, 1,300 miles west of Juneau and 800 miles southwest of Anchorage. The vessels involved in this trade are a mix of large commercial ships classed as containerships, bulk carriers, car carriers, tank vessels, and others. They are mainly foreign-flagged and on innocent passage through these waters. Weather, distance, and other factors combine to influence the most efficient route chosen by shippers when voyages are planned. According to the latest tracking data available (discussed in detail below), about 4,500 large commercial vessels transit Unimak Pass annually. About 3,600 of these vessels are westbound because the majority of eastbound vessels follow more favorable currents by using the route south of the Aleutians. Although similar tracking data are lacking for the southern route, it is assumed for present purposes that the number of vessels traveling in each direction is equal; thus the total number of large commercial vessel transits in both directions would be about 7,200 annually. The second category of vessels of interest to a risk assessment of Aleutian shipping operations includes local fishing vessels and supply, work, or service vessels calling on Alaskan ports. Vessels in this category are smaller than those in the first category, carry less fuel and cargo, are typically on shorter voyages, and are usually of U.S. registry. For example, 400 to 500 fishing vessels operate in and around the Aleutians.1 Also in this category are numerous ferries, cruise ships, tugs, and barges. Fishing vessels operate mainly out of Dutch Harbor; local tug–barges, small cargo vessels, and work boats operate out of either Dutch Harbor or other, smaller Aleutian ports in addition to making up some north–south traffic to and from more distant Alaskan locations. 1 Many of these vessels operate out of Dutch Harbor and typically make two or more transits (two transits is one round-trip) from Dutch Harbor to the fishing grounds each season.
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment Volume of Traffic A comprehensive review of vessel traffic in the Aleutian region through mid-2006 can be found in a report prepared for the state of Alaska by Nuka Research and Planning Group (2006). This report summarizes commercial and local vessel transits through Unimak Pass by using the first 9 months of U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) data from recently installed automatic identification system (AIS) tracking stations. It also estimates fishing vessel traffic by using data from the National Marine Fisheries Service fisheries observers and summarizes USCG data on casualties and Alaskan data on oil spills from vessel accidents. As an aid to estimating the future risks of spills, the report calculates the volumes of oil carried by the various types of commercial vessels that use the Great Circle Route through the Aleutians, thereby estimating the volumes and types of oil moved through the region. To supplement the Nuka report, the committee requested and received from USCG 2 years of AIS vessel tracking data for Unimak Pass (covering fiscal years 2006 and 2007, and thus expanding the Nuka data set) (USCG 2007). The data indicate about 3,500 vessel transits through the pass from October 1, 2005, through September 30, 2006, and about 4,500 from October 1, 2006, through September 30, 2007. Table 4-1 shows the types of vessels that make up the total for fiscal year 2007—the two largest categories being containerships (40 percent) and bulk carriers (35 percent). The AIS data include detail on each vessel tracked, including its name, flag, port of departure, and date and time of transit, that could be used to investigate other characteristics and historical data on these vessels from public sources. The following are some additional aspects of the AIS data (USCG 2007): Among the 4,470 transits of large commercial vessels through Unimak Pass following the Great Circle Route in fiscal year 2007, 3,580 vessels were westbound (85 percent); 890 vessels were eastbound (15 percent); 3,130 vessels were bound to or from U.S. ports (70 percent); and 1,340 vessels were bound to or from Canadian ports (30 percent).
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment TABLE 4-1 Vessels Transiting Unimak Pass, October 1, 2006, Through September 30, 2007 Vessel Type Number of Vessel Transitsa Containerships 1,800 Bulk carriers 1,550 Car carriers 300 Reefers 175 General cargo ships 175 Chemical tankers 125 Crude and product tankers 40 Liquid natural gas and liquid petroleum gas tankers 40 Wood chip carriers 50 Roll-on/roll-off 50 Other 165 Total 4,470 aNumbers are adjusted for missed days and rounded up. Source: USCG 2007. The number of transits of vessels involved in local trade tracked in and around Unimak Pass in fiscal year 2007 was 1,720 (1,435, or 80 percent of the total, were fishing vessels2). During fiscal year 2007, AIS was operational and appeared to be tracking vessels transiting the pass about 98 percent of the time. Although a few reports of noncompliance with the AIS carriage requirements were received, the actual rate of compliance is unknown. Since large commercial vessels transiting this route call on both U.S. West Coast and Canadian ports, efforts to learn more about them or to exercise port state control over their operations would have to involve both U.S. and Canadian authorities. In contrast, the roughly 1,700 local vessel transits are mainly U.S.-registered fishing vessels, so USCG can exercise its authority over them more readily, and additional particulars on their operations may be available from U.S. authorities. 2 This is the number of fishing vessel voyages that are tracked by AIS in the region covered. It could be any number of individual vessels making any number of transits each during the year. However, not all fishing vessels are equipped with AIS transponders; thus, the actual number of fishing vessel transits is much larger than that captured in these data.
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment Additional vessel traffic data could be collected given further time and effort. USCG continues to collect and analyze AIS data for Unimak Pass on a regular basis—a third year of such data will be available in October 2008, facilitating efforts to determine trends over time and project future traffic patterns. In addition, more AIS stations could be installed to track vessels on the southern route or farther along the Aleutian chain. And, as noted in Chapter 3, in 2009 a worldwide long-range identification and tracking (LRIT) system for ships will become operational and may supply further useful data. Finally, several other types of vessels may operate in or transit the Aleutians in the future with the development of the oil and gas businesses. They include offshore supply vessels, offshore drilling units, seismic exploration vessels, and anchor handling tugs. The risk assessment would need to account for these and other additions to vessel traffic over the assumed time period. MOVEMENTS OF OIL, CHEMICALS, AND OTHER HAZARDOUS GOODS Cargo Carried Since reports on vessel traffic based on AIS data identify ship types and names, one could estimate the amounts and types of fuel oil carried, as well as possible cargoes of petroleum and other hazardous materials. In its report, Nuka Research and Planning Group (2006) estimates fuel oil carried by certain vessel types; the report also totals chemical tankers and liquefied natural gas carriers, oil barges, and so forth and estimates the materials they carry. According to the report, tankers may carry, on average, 400 million gallons of oil as cargo and fuel, while large containerships and bulkers typically carry 1.6 million and 0.5 million gallons of oil as fuel, respectively. The fuel used varies with the type of vessel: large commercial vessels typically use heavy residual oils (thick oils that persist in the environment), while fishing vessels, tugs, and the like generally use diesel fuel, which is lighter and more volatile and evaporates rapidly but is more toxic when released. [For a detailed examination of the nature and impact of releases of petroleum (crude oil and the products refined from it) to the environment, see Oil in the
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment Sea III: Inputs, Fates, and Effects (NRC 2003)]. More accurate estimates of the amounts and types of oil carried as cargo or fuel by vessels transiting the Aleutians can be derived from AIS data. While data on operational discharges from vessels transiting through the Aleutians are not readily available at present, they could perhaps be estimated by using worldwide data on similar vessels. Whether these data would be useful to the risk assessment that is the subject of this study depends on specifics of the work scope, yet to be determined. Nonnative and Invasive Species Shipping as a vector for introducing alien species into the marine environment is another risk to the Aleutian Islands, one that is exacerbated by globalization and increased trade. The costs can be high in both ecological and monetary terms. For example, an invasion of the European green crab—anticipated to be a competitor for Alaskan native species—could be extremely costly to the $117 million shellfish industry (Union of Concerned Scientists 2001). While the cost to the U.S. economy of the introduction of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species is difficult to determine, one study estimates the damages at $137 billion annually (Pimentel et al. 2000). Of note in the present context, of the more than $600 million spent in 2000 to address this problem, the U.S. Department of Agriculture received approximately 90 percent for predominantly land-based efforts, while less than 1 percent was dedicated to combating invasive species (U.S. General Accounting Office 2002). Aquatic species move through the marine environment by means of a variety of human-mediated pathways—shellfish importation, aquaculture, aquariums, horticulture, and the pet industry, to name a few (U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy 2004). Also of concern is the introduction of invasive species through ship ballast water carrying viable organisms from one water body to another. More than two-thirds of recent introductions of nonnative species in U.S. marine and coastal areas were likely due to shipborne vectors, and transport and discharge of ballast water is the most ubiquitous of these. Alaska, like all mainland coasts of the United States, has felt the effects of successful invasions of aquatic species (EPA 2008). Introductions of terrestrial species have also dramatically affected the Bering Sea region. Given the importance and uniqueness of
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment avian diversity in the Aleutians, a major concern is the threat to bird life posed by the introduction of rats. Rats prey on live nesting birds as well as eggs and can quickly destroy entire seabird colonies. A Japanese shipwreck in 1780 introduced the first Norway rat to Alaska, and by 1790 one of the Aleutians was named Rat Island. Rats have now invaded some 30 Alaskan islands and many additional areas, coastal and inland. Once established, rats devastate seabirds and other species. In certain locations and at certain times, rat “spills” (rats swimming to land from shipwrecks or walking from docked ships to land on ropes or gangplanks) are considered to be more ecologically damaging than oil spills.3 Today the Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners are working to control the spread of rats to uninfected islands through education and outreach activities, as well as to eradicate rats from islands where they have become established. VESSEL ACCIDENTS A significant number and variety of vessel accidents have occurred in the Aleutian region over the past few decades, and several data sources can be consulted to determine their causes, circumstances, consequences, and trends. Two key sources are accident reports prepared by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) following its investigations of major marine accidents and USCG’s Marine Safety Management System (MSMS) database. Only a few NTSB accident reports have been completed for the Aleutian region in recent years. Besides the M/V Selendang Ayu accident in 2004, the NTSB database since 1985 includes accidents involving one passenger vessel, one tug–barge unit, and 20 fishing vessels. The much larger USCG database contains reports of marine incidents and accidents spanning 40 years, from which the committee reviewed data for the Aleutians from 1991 through 2008. Appendix H contains selected summary information derived from MSMS data for the Aleutians from 1991 to 2000 (more than 3,000 incidents) and from Marine Information for Safety and Law Enforcement (MISLE) data for 2000 to 2003. In addition, the appendix contains a table 3 Personal communication, A. Archibeque, Union of Concerned Scientists Report, 2002.
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment indicating most frequent causal factors from more than 1,400 MISLE incident reports for the Aleutians from 1995 to 2008. The committee was able to draw only initial observations from these data. For one thing, fishing vessels accounted for the vast majority of individual incidents in the database. The reasons for this imbalance cannot be discerned from the data themselves, but one possibility cited elsewhere (e.g., Nuka Research and Planning Group 2006) is that U.S.-flagged fishing vessels may have a higher reporting rate than foreign-flagged vessels on innocent passage. In addition, as can be seen from the oil spill data presented below, the fishing vessel fleet appears to be responsible for a larger number of relatively small incidents, while the large commercial fleet has experienced a few major incidents. Although the committee was unable to review other accident data because of time and resource constraints, additional data are available that could be used for the risk assessment. One recent study by the Government Accountability Office summarizes major spills for the entire United States from 1990 through 2006.4 Accident data are available as well from other countries and international bodies for similar categories of vessels and operational environments. More detail on specific incidents could also be developed from several other sources, such as responders to incidents and salvage firms.5 It is clear that many common types of ship accidents have occurred in the Aleutians. The historical data illustrate the frequency of these events, as well as the difficult nature of emergency response in this remote and hostile environment. Box 4-1 summarizes circumstances and events for five selected vessel accidents in the Aleutians illustrating a variety of conditions, vessel types, causal factors, and consequences. These examples illustrate some key issues related to recent vessel incidents in the region and can serve as a first approximation of some typical accident scenarios for use in the Phase A Preliminary Risk Assessment, along with others as appropriate. 4 The report defines major spills as those involving damage claims of at least $1 million. There were 51 such spills recorded during the period among a total of about 3,400 spills. There were no discernible trends for the 51 large spills over the 15-year time frame; in other words, one to five large damaging vessel spills appeared to occur each year, with a random pattern from year to year. 5 See Appendix G for a sample list of salvage incidents in the region near Dutch Harbor taken from a private database maintained by a local salvage firm.
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment BOX 4-1 Circumstances and Events Surrounding Five Selected Vessel Accidents in the Aleutian Region M/V Selendang Ayu Vessel: Malaysian-registered bulk carrier, 738 ft, 40,000 gross tons Carrying: 60,000 tons of soybeans and 1,000 tons of fuel oil Casualty: Lost power; vessel ran aground and broke up after drifting 100 miles to land Date: November–December 2004 Location: North shore of Unalaska Island Consequences: Six fatalities, one serious injury; $12 million vessel loss; rescue helicopter crashed; 336,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil spilled Causal factors: Main engine failure; crew unable to repair and restart Severe weather and high winds and seas contributing to problems with repair work and rescue operations Failure to notify authorities and seek assistance in a timely manner Lack of adequate emergency towing and anchoring gear Inadequate prior engine maintenance Lack of adequate rescue/towing vessel and equipment in the region Lack of proper survival equipment for crew M/V Kuroshima Vessel: Japanese-registered freighter, 367 ft Carrying: Fisheries cargo and bunker fuel oil Casualty: Vessel dragged anchor in harbor and ran aground Date: November 1997 Location: Dutch Harbor Consequences: One fatality; vessel damage; 40,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil spilled onto beach and freshwater lake
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment Causal factors: Severe storm, high winds and seas Inadequate emergency anchoring system Lack of adequate tow/rescue tug in region M/V Cougar ACE Vessel: Singapore-registered car carrier, 654 ft Carrying: 4,800 vehicles, 180,000 gallons of fuel Casualty: Vessel heeled over 80 degrees, was adrift without power for a few days Date: July 2006 Location: South of Aleutians Consequences: One fatality; vessel damage; vessel able to be towed to Dutch Harbor for repairs; near-miss polluting event Causal factors: Investigations under way T/B Foss 256 Vessel: U.S.-registered tug–barge unit Carrying: Fuel oil cargo for Navy facility in western Aleutians Casualty: High winds pushed barge over rocks while oil was being transferred to shore; vessel ran aground, and several cargo tanks were penetrated Date: January 1989 Location: Amchitka Island, western Aleutians Consequences: 84,000 gallons of diesel oil spilled; no cleanup Causal factors: Severe weather No emergency response equipment in the area Other factors unknown
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment F/V Phoenix Vessel: U.S.-registered fishing vessel out of Dutch Harbor Carrying: 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel Casualty: Vessel lost power and control when fishing gear became entangled in rudder; vessel drifted to Unimak Island shore, grounded, and was penetrated Date: April 1993 Location: Unimak Island just west of Unalaska Consequences: All 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled; no cleanup Causal factors: Inadequate attention paid to handling of fishing gear Heavy weather Lack of available emergency response Source: ADEC 2006; NOAA 2000; NTSB 2006. SPILLS OF OIL AND OTHER HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES The committee reviewed available data on oil spills in the Aleutian region and noted that these data are comprehensively compiled and reported (see Figure 4-1). In 2007 the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) issued a report on oil spills from 1996 to 2004, which contained a section on the Aleutians. The data show just two significant vessel spills (i.e., more than 10,000 gallons) during the past 10 years, by far the largest of these being that of the M/V Selendang Ayu at 336,000 gallons. An additional review of the past 20 years of spill data shows about 22 spills of more than 1,000 gallons in the Aleutians. A report of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicates that almost no oil has ever been recovered from these vessel spills in the Aleutians (NOAA 2000). As noted above, the data show that in the recent past, fishing vessels have contributed to the largest number of spills compared with all other vessel categories, although the largest volume
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment FIGURE 4-3 Map with detail on spills of at least 1,000 gallons from 1981 to 2006 throughout the Aleutian region. (Source: Nuka Research and Planning Group 2006.)
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment distribution of spill locations and a large range of incident types. Figures 4-4, 4-5, and 4-6 present detail on various characteristics of spills between 1996 and 2005. The ADEC report summarizes discernible trends from these spill data (see Figure 4-4). First, it concludes that the total number of spills in the region appears to have been on a general decline during this 10-year period (Figure 4-4a). Also, the frequency of spills appears to decline during October through January, possibly because of the timing of the fishing season (Figure 4-4b). Trends with regard to the number of spills per year may be somewhat misleading because of the overwhelming numbers of small spills compared with just two very large spills—those from the Kuroshima in 1997 and the Selendang Ayu in 2004. Compared with all oil spills in the Aleutians, spills from vessels were the most common and accounted for almost half the total number and 88 percent of the total volume (see Figure 4-5a). The spill causes recorded were roughly evenly distributed among human factors, structural/mechanical, and other relative to the number of spills, but in terms of volume released, human factors dominated (Figure 4-5b). Finally, 98 percent of the number of spills were of noncrude oil, indicating that most of these spills were of either vessel fuels or refined products being delivered to island locations (Figure 4-5c). The following are initial conclusions drawn from vessel spill data for the time period 1981–2005 (ADEC 2007): There were 26 known vessel spills of more than 1,000 gallons during the 25-year period, an average of approximately one per year. With so few large spills per year, there is no obvious pattern over time. There were seven vessel spills of more than 35,000 gallons: Date Ship Diesel or Heavy Oil Amount (gallons) Dec. 26, 1988 Tank Barge 283 Diesel 2,041,662 Dec. 8, 2004 M/V Selendang Ayu Heavy oil 335,732 March 5, 1981 M/V Dae Rim Diesel 109,998 Jan. 17, 1989 T/B Foss 256 Diesel 83,958 Jan. 11, 1989 M/V Chil Bo San Diesel 60,984 Nov. 26, 1997 M/V Kuroshima Heavy oil 38,976 Feb. 1, 1988 F/V Alaska Star Diesel 35,952
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment FIGURE 4-4 Spill trends in the Aleutians by fiscal year, month, and size, 1996–2005: (a) all spills by fiscal year; (b) all spills by month; (c) spills > 1,000 gallons. (Source: ADEC 2007.)
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment FIGURE 4-5 Spills in the Aleutians by (a) facility type, (b) cause, and (c) product, 1996–2005. (Source: ADEC 2007.) [In the Tank Barge 283 incident (USCG MP88008565), the tank barge foundered and broke up in the Shumagin Islands, at the upper end of the Aleutian chain. Because no investigation report is available on this incident that would provide detailed information on the sequence of events leading to the incident as there is for the M/V Selendang Ayu and the other accidents
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment FIGURE 4-6 Contribution of spills of various sizes to total number of spills and total volume released, 1996–2005: (a) percentage of total number of spills represented by spills of various sizes and (b) percentage of total volume released attributable to spills of various sizes. (More than half of the spills reported during the 10-year period were less than 10 gallons in size. More than 98 percent of the total volume released was attributable to spills with a volume of greater than 99 gallons.) (Source: ADEC 2007.) described in Box 4-1 that resulted in large spills, the box does not include a description of this incident.] Of the 26 known spills, 16 were from fishing vessels (the largest are listed above). Of the 10 cargo vessel spills, two were from tank barges, seven from self-propelled ships, and one from a vessel designated simply as a tank vessel.
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment REGULATORY FRAMEWORK The United States has sovereignty over the waters of the Aleutian Islands out to 12 nautical miles, which constitutes its territorial sea; it also exercises some authorities to the outer edge of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which extends 200 nautical miles seaward of the baseline from which the territorial sea is measured. International law gives each coastal state broad jurisdictional authority to prescribe and enforce within its territorial seas, subject to the right of innocent passage. Since Unimak Pass is an international strait, foreign vessels enjoy the right of transit passage through it, as well as through waters north and south of the Aleutian Islands. While the United States could establish a traffic separation scheme or impose other requirements on shipping related to navigational safety within its territorial sea with the approval of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), it may not take unilateral action that would hamper or restrict international transit rights. However, if a foreign vessel is bound for a port or other location in the United States, the United States may impose additional requirements, such as a vessel oil spill response plan (VRP) for tankers, as a condition of entry. Such plans must include a geographic-specific appendix for each USCG Captain of the Port (COTP) jurisdiction to be transited; this includes transits to the outer edge of the EEZ (USCG 2007). Several international legal regimes might be applied to manage shipping and shipping traffic in the region. These include the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); IMO provisions concerning vessel traffic services, vessel routing and reporting systems, and particularly sensitive sea areas (PSSAs); and U.S. statutes and regulations. These legal regimes are interrelated. In March 1983, President Reagan declared that the United States would respect and follow the navigational provisions of UNCLOS as customary law. UNCLOS was signed by the United States in 1994, but to date it has still not been ratified by the U.S. Senate. Nonetheless, the United States has taken advantage of the provisions of UNCLOS, claiming a 200-nautical-mile EEZ in 1983, a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea in 1988, and a 24-nautical-mile contiguous zone in 1999. As noted above, then, for international and many domestic purposes, the United States now exercises sovereignty out to 12 nautical miles from each of the islands in the Aleutian Island chain, as well as
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment some authorities to the outer edge of the EEZ. The exercise of this authority, however, is subject to the inclusive rights of the international community to innocent passage. Several of the UNCLOS articles (Numbers 17, 18, 19, 37, and 38) define this right of innocent passage and explain how it applies for all nations to vessels transiting territorial seas and international straits (UNCLOS 1982). Before the territorial sea in the Aleutians was extended to 12 nautical miles, the international community had a “high-seas corridor” through Unimak Pass. Now, however, the territorial sea of the United States entirely overlaps the waters of Unimak Pass. To constitute an “international strait” under international law, a body of water must first constitute a strait—a natural, constricted channel of water that connects two larger bodies of water. The right of transit passage applies to international straits “which are used for international navigation between one part of the high seas or an exclusive economic zone and another part of the high seas or an exclusive economic zone” (UNCLOS 1982, Article 37). States may not hamper or suspend the right of transit passage through straits in their territorial sea (UNCLOS 1982, Article 44). Because Unimak Pass is used for international navigation and connects two large bodies of water, it clearly constitutes an international strait. While transit passage refers to the right of passage through an international strait, innocent passage refers specifically to the right of passage through a territorial sea when not calling at a port (for the United States, up to 12 nautical miles from the baseline). With respect to the application of Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 155, Subpart D, concerning VRPs, there is no real difference between U.S. and foreign vessels in the applicability of the requirement to carry such a plan; however, there is now a specific provision that this subpart does not apply to certain types of vessels, including foreign-flagged vessels engaged in innocent passage [33 CFR § 155.1010(c)(7)] and not calling at a U.S. port. Although transit passage is not specifically mentioned as an exception, it is certainly included by implication and practice for foreign-flagged vessels not calling at a U.S. port. When President Reagan issued a proclamation extending the U.S. territorial sea to 12 nautical miles, he stated, “In accordance with international law, as reflected in the applicable provisions of [UNCLOS], within the territorial sea of the United States, the ships of all countries enjoy the right of innocent passage and the
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment ships and aircraft of all countries enjoy the right of transit passage through international straits” (Presidential Proclamation 5928 of December 27, 1988). Coastal states have considerably less jurisdiction over foreign-flagged vessels engaged in transit passage than those engaged in innocent passage. Thus by inference, the innocent passage exception of 33 CFR § 155.1010(c)(7) applies equally to vessels engaged in transit passage through Unimak Pass. A number of measures, based on both international law and U.S. statutes and regulations, are available to manage ship traffic and operations in the U.S. territorial sea around the Aleutian Islands. If vessels are U.S.-flagged, or if they have plans to engage in the transfer of oil or other cargo in a port or place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States on a particular voyage, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) requires that they carry a VRP with a geographic-specific appendix for each COTP zone through which they will pass. (See Box 4-2 for discussion of an important provision of OPA 90 relative to shipping operations in the Aleutians.) USCG has also given priority to developing VRP regulations for nontank vessels. Part of the purpose of the geographic-specific appendix is to identify oil spill response organizations (OSROs) with which vessel operators have contracted to respond to an actual or potential oil spill. The closest OSRO to Unimak Pass and the Aleutian Island chain is in Cook Inlet, about 1,200 nautical miles from the pass. IMO has the authority to review and approve sea lanes, traffic separation schemes, PSSAs, and other restrictions on navigation. The organization seeks to promote maritime safety and security and to protect the marine environment while ensuring uniformity and consistency worldwide. To this end, it has established guidelines and procedures for reviewing and approving such proposals. While many of the laws governing navigation, environmental protection, drug trafficking, customs, immigration, and fiscal matters apply to the waters of the Aleutian Islands, no specific traffic management regulations apply to Unimak Pass. Nonetheless, other rules of international navigation, such as the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, apply (UNCLOS 1982, Article 39). Also, under recent changes to IMO’s 1974 Convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 74), most ships are now required to carry an AIS, which provides the ship’s position within VHF–FM radio range to other ships thus equipped and to shore station receivers. Ship-to-ship AIS is an effective tool for collision avoidance. The Unimak Pass
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment BOX 4-2 Double-Hull Requirements in Alaskan Waters Following the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, the U.S. Congress passed OPA 90, which mandated the phaseout of single-hull tankers and tank barges. As stated in 33 CFR § 157.08(n)(5), however, tank barges weighing less than 1,500 gross tons operating in the waters of the Aleutian Islands are specifically exempted from the double-hull provisions of OPA 90. (A tank barge of 1,500 gross tons will have a cargo capacity of roughly 900,000 gallons.) This was considered to be a practical solution to the delivery of oil to small, remote villages with confined waterways and extremely shallow water depth, which may not be able to sustain double-hull configured barges because of their size, weight, and reduced carrying capacity during ice-free, high–low water navigation periods. As a result, there are currently single-hull tank barges moving petroleum products within the Aleutian region that have no mandated retirement date. The risks related to operating single-hull tank barges in this relatively pristine region, known for its severe and changeable weather, need to be understood. It is important that tank barges be evaluated in this risk assessment. region is equipped with shore-based AIS receivers, which enables tracking of vessels through the area and provides statistical data on vessel traffic. This region is the exception; most of the Aleutian Island chain is not covered by AIS shore-based receivers. In addition, IMO is currently working on the implementation of ship LRIT and is working with SOLAS parties to determine how such data will be managed and distributed to coastal, port, and flag states. IMO agreed to an amendment to SOLAS 74 requiring LRIT capability for certain ships; this amendment went into effect on January 1, 2008, and those ships must comply by December 31, 2008. Although the United States has not yet done so, it could propose that the environmentally sensitive Aleutian Islands, or parts thereof,
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment constitute a PSSA and require special protection against oil spills and other navigational mishaps. U.S. law6 provides broad authority to limit or otherwise control the movements of any ship in the U.S. territorial sea, including the use of vessel traffic services, safety zones, and regulated navigation areas. This authority could apply to the sea areas surrounding the Aleutian Islands out to 12 nautical miles from the baseline as defined in UNCLOS. Although the United States could impose unilateral requirements within its territorial sea, it is reluctant to impose burdensome requirements on foreign vessels on innocent passage through those waters. This reluctance is reflected in 33 CFR § 160.103 (“Applicability”), relative to the control of vessel operations, which exempts from compliance ships in innocent passage through the territorial sea of the United States or transiting navigable waters of the United States that form part of an international strait. As previously noted, however, if a foreign-flagged vessel is en route to a port or other place within the United States, additional requirements, such as a vessel spill VRP for a tanker carrying oil in bulk that includes a Geographic Specific Appendix (GSA) for each COTP zone being transited out to the EEZ, would apply; these COTP zones would include the Aleutians. As noted earlier, a regulatory effort is also under way to develop VRP requirements for nontank vessels. Finally, given that the Unimak Pass area is heavily trafficked and vulnerable to environmental degradation, other options for regulating or monitoring vessel traffic transiting through it could be considered. Such options might include a traffic separation scheme or a PSSA. REFERENCES Abbreviations ADEC Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation EPA Environmental Protection Agency NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NRC National Research Council NTSB National Transportation Safety Board 6 The Ports and Waterways Safety Act, as laid out in Chapter 25 of Title 33, United States Code, Sections 1221–1232, and as implemented in 33 CFR Parts 155 and 160.
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Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: Designing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment UNCLOS United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea USCG United States Coast Guard ADEC. 2006. Situation Report on the M/V Selendang Ayu. SITREP 111 and Final, Spill Number 04259934301. June 26. ADEC. 2007. Summary of Oil and Hazardous Spills by Subarea (July 1, 1995–June 3, 2005). Division of Spill Prevention and Response, Oct. EPA. 2008. Invasive Species. www.epa.gov/owow/invasive_species. NOAA. 2000. The Aleutian Islands and Lower Alaska Peninsula: Oceanographic Conditions and NOAA’s Oil Spill Response History During 1981–1999. HAZMAT Report 2000-3. Hazardous Materials Response Division, National Ocean Service, Anchorage, Alaska. NRC. 2003. Oil in the Sea III: Inputs, Fates, and Effects. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. NTSB. 2006. National Transportation Safety Board Marine Accident Brief, Grounding of Malaysian-Flag Bulk Carrier M/V Selendang Ayu on North Shore of Unalaska Island, Alaska. NTSB/MAB-06/01. Washington, D.C., Sept. 26. Nuka Research and Planning Group, LLC. 2006. Vessel Traffic in the Aleutians Subarea. Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Seldovia, Sept. Pimentel, D., L. Lach, R. Zuniga, and D. Morrison. 2000. Environmental and Economic Costs of Nonindigenous Species in the United States. Bioscience, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 53–65. UNCLOS. 1982. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982. www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/convention_overview_convention.htm. Union of Concerned Scientists. 2001. Invasive Species in Alaska (adapted from D. Koons, Threats to the Last Frontier: A Report of Invasive Species to Alaska, 2001). USCG. 2007. AIS Tracking Report for 10/1/06 Through 9/30/07. U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. 2004. An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century. Final report. Washington, D.C. U.S. General Accounting Office. 2002. Invasive Species: Clearer Focus and Greater Commitment to Effectively Manage the Problem. Report GAO-03-1. Washington, D.C.