In 2012 and 2013 the U. S. Coast Guard issued new rules applying to shipping traffic, specifically in the Western Alaska and Prince William Sound Captain of the Port Zones. Captain of the Port Zones extend out to the 200 nautical mile limit of the U. S. Exclusive Economic Zone. Prior to this bulletin, all ships transiting these zones were either considered on “Innocent Passage” or were given trip waivers for their voyages. As of January 1, 2013, ships including a U. S. port of call in their voyage were required to comply with federal oil pollution prevention regulations contained in 33 CFR 155. All federally required Vessel Response Plans (VRP) must have specific approval from each Captain of the Port Zone in which the vessel intends to operate.
Because most of Alaska is either remote, inaccessible, or both, compliance with standard federal pollution response regulations is not possible. Recognizing the special needs of Alaska, the regulations provide for equivalent alternative planning measures in order to meet the federal requirements. Without these Alternative Planning Criteria (APC), it would be impossible for vessel operators to meet the spill response requirements.
The Network was created by Alaskans working in the Alaskan maritime industry who share a common goal of reducing risks to the Alaskan environment. The Mission of the Network is to provide mariners operating in Alaska access to enhanced oil spill prevention and response capabilities and the ability to comply with the spill response requirements of 33 CFR Part 155. For nontank vessels, the Network APC provides regulatory compliance in Captain of the Port Zones for Western Alaska and Prince William Sound. For tank vessels, the Network APC provides regulatory compliance for Captain of the Port Zone Western Alaska, excluding Cook Inlet. These APC provide the foundation for our organization. Each of the Network’s APC for tank vessels and nontank vessels are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Enrollees in the Network are provided with a Certificate of Participation and other documents describing the enrollees’ obligations. This Certificate of Participation is accepted by the U. S. Coast Guard as evidence of the enrollee’s compliance with applicable federal oil spill prevention and response regulations through the Network’s APC.
A key component of the Network’s APC is reducing the risk of an incident. No other program focuses on this aspect more than the Network. We believe avoiding an incident is preferable to mobilizing a response to the aftermath and our program clearly demonstrates that belief. Network enrollees agree to use risk reduction measures developed by the Network and approved by stakeholders and the U. S. Coast Guard while in transit. These include providing advance notice of sailings, sailing on pre-determined routes that mitigate risk and timely notice of an occurrence. This unique approach is warranted in Alaska where offshore and open water oil spill recovery is more challenging and less effective than in any other maritime region of the U.S.
For more information, interested parties should consult their Vessel Response Plan administrator.