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A Reassessment of the Marine Salvage Posture of the United States
Borg, for example, had six vessels on-site within 36 hours, with the capability of providing 67,500 gpm of firefighting water, at least two of which were capable of performing any rescue towing assistance needed.
Lightering assets—tankers, fenders, hoses, and support vessels—are readily available throughout the Gulf, and ship-to-ship offshore lightering is very common.
A major concern in the Gulf is channel blockage. From a salvage perspective, the key issue is availability of equipment to remove channel obstructions resulting from casualties. To a greater degree than on other coasts, the marine transportation system in the Gulf depends on the use of narrow ship channels. Casualties such as the Duval 2 sulfur barge collision and sinking in the Houston Ship Channel can have a major effect on shipping in the affected port and consequently on the economy. Significant heavy-lift assets are available in the Gulf, but they are located in areas where they can be employed in the marine construction industry, not necessarily near the scene of a casualty. In the Duval 2 incident, salvage assets deployed from New Orleans were delayed by fog and did not arrive on the scene for several days.
Salvage capability and readiness on the Pacific Coast continues to be generally adequate, with some exceptions. The presence of major towing and tug companies on the Pacific Coast continues to be a strong force in salvage readiness and response. The introduction of powerful tractor tugs equipped with firefighting monitors for tanker escort service in Puget Sound (also anticipated in California waters) has added significantly to the salvage capabilities and readiness on the Pacific Coast. This region also has the only dedicated salvage vessels in the United States.
Given the current level of salvage activity, there does not seem to be sufficient salvage work to keep the dedicated vessels gainfully employed (presently even these vessels rely on on-call crews). Without more activity or new revenue streams, the capacity level in this region may decline as one or more companies leave the field.
The availability of vessels capable of rescue towing is of less concern on the Pacific Coast than in other areas. This is mainly due to the accessibility of large commercial ocean-going tug fleets and the U.S. Navy presence in the mid-Pacific. However, there are significant gaps in coverage in remote areas of Alaska and in some areas of Northern California and Oregon, due to the long distances between ports.
Firefighting capability remains the major concern in the Pacific region. Little traditional firefighting capability exists within the coastal port areas, and the interface between local authorities and the marine industry may not be adequate. The capability is increasing with the addition of required escort tugs for oil tankers in Puget Sound and those anticipated in California. These tugs are being equipped with fire monitors with over 5,000-gpm capability. The planned prepositioning of fly-away marine firefighting systems in the region will add significantly to the response capability. As in other areas, the added capabilities have not been incorporated in port and area contingency planning.