By the OGJ Online Staff
WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 14 -- The US Coast Guard is reviewing comments on a proposed rule that would require devices that monitor tank pressures or cargo levels to be installed on single-hulled tankers.
At a Nov. 6 public hearing on the proposed regulation, shipping industry representatives told the Coast Guard that technology for monitoring small leaks aboard tankers is inadequate and too expensive.
Congress required the regulation in the 1990 Oil Pollution Act. The goal was to detect small leaks from tankers that might cause environmental damage in sensitive areas or presage an incipient structural failure.
In 1995 the Coast Guard proposed a performance standard for leak detection devices of the lesser of 0.5% of the loaded cargo quantity or 1,000 gal. In a temporary rule published in 1997, the Coast Guard requested manufacturers to submit devices meeting that sensitivity criteria. No proposals were received and the rule expired in 1999.
Environmental groups then sued the Coast Guard to require implementation of the legal mandate. Last December, a federal appeals court ordered the Coast Guard proceed with a rule. It issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on Oct. 1 and set a Nov. 5 public hearing. Written comments are due by Nov. 30.
The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko) said, "The dilemma facing the Coast Guard and the industry is one of reconciling a clear mandate of the US Congress with a stubborn and inconvenient technical impossibility of minutely and accurately measuring small losses of liquid cargoes moving aboard vessels operating in a liquid medium that historically refuses to hold still even for distinguished jurists and legislative bodies."
It also noted that the fleet of single hull tank vessels is declining because of the combined effects of US and international phaseout requirements.
Although the Coast Guard tentatively estimates the monitoring cost at $6,000/vessel, Intertanko said it was more than $500,000/vessel. It urged the Coast Guard to ask Congress to reconsider the requirement.