The US Coast Guard is cracking down on oil tankers violating safety regulations in Alaska waters.
Last year, the Alaska Maritime Planning and Response Network approved new regulations for ships carrying bulk oil through Western Alaska waters. The regulations were intended to help ships meet spill response standards. Western Alaska, which has few large towns and cities, lacks places to stage spill response equipment. The revised regulations are supposed to make up for that lack, but many ships are ignoring the new rules, the Coast Guard found.
Unimak Pass, at the end of the Alaska Peninsula, is a major chokepoint for ships traveling between the West Coast and Asia. Since last year, the Coast Guard has warned 17 tankers passing through the area that their spill response plans are inadequate.
“At this point, since we've given 17 letters of warning, it's time to step up and get tough,” said Lt. Ryan Butler, assistant chief of the Coast Guard’s inspections division for Western Alaska.
As of Tuesday, the Coast Guard had already issued two notices of warning — the first step toward fining a ship.
Under federal law, the Coast Guard may fine a ship up to $11,000 per violation per day for operating in American waters without the appropriate spill response plan.
Butler was unable to reveal the identity of the ships in question but said all were passing through Alaska waters en route to Lower 48 or foreign ports. None were domestic Alaska vessels.
International agreements allow the Coast Guard authority over ships traveling to or leaving from a US port. A ship traveling from a foreign port to a foreign port through Alaska waters are not regulated.
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