The 2008 Vessel General Permit (VGP) regulates discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels operating in a capacity as a means of transportation. The VGP includes general effluent limits applicable to all discharges; general effluent limits applicable to 26 specific discharge streams; narrative water-quality based effluent limits; inspection, monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements; and additional requirements applicable to certain vessel types.
Recreational vessels as defined in section 502(25) of the Clean Water Act are not subject to this permit. In addition, with the exception of ballast water discharges, non-recreational vessels less than 79 feet (24.08 meters) in length, and all commercial fishing vessels, regardless of length, are not subject to this permit. Click here to find out how to obtain authorization to discharge under the VGP.
On March 30, 2005, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (in Northwest Environmental Advocates et al. v. EPA) ruled that the EPA regulation excluding discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel from NPDES permitting exceeded the Agency’s authority under the CWA. On September 18, 2006, the Court issued an order revoking this regulation (40 C.F.R. 122.3(a)) as of September 30, 2008. EPA appealed the District Court's decision, and on July 23, 2008, the Ninth Circuit upheld the decision, leaving the September 30, 2008 vacatur date in effect. In response to this Court order, EPA developed two proposed permits to regulate discharges from vessels. The district court subsequently extended the date of vacatur to December 19, 2008.
--- When Rear Adm. James Watson IV promised Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., at a hearing Tuesday that the Coast Guard would issue proposed rules regulating tugboats in 2009, Cummings asked Watson to repeat the pledge.
The frustration with the long-delayed new rules on tugs gained new urgency this summer when an oil spill in the Mississippi River shut down shipping through New Orleans. The spill has been blamed on a tugboat being operated by a company that was involved in another accident on the river 10 days earlier.
It's been four year since Congress ordered the Coast Guard to create rules requiring the regular inspection of towing vessels and setting limits on the number of hours that crew members work each day. Neither set of rules has been issued
As the Coast Guard's mission has been expanded in the age of homeland security, it appears that tugboat safety is not foremost on the agenda.
On July 23, the tugboat Mel Oliver, pushing the fuel barge DM 932, crossed in front of and collided with the 600-foot motor tanker Tintomara. Nearly 300,000 gallons of oil spilled from the barge.
It was determined that the Mel Oliver was under the control of a steersman apprentice, whose license did not authorize him to operate the vessel without the captain being in the wheelhouse. The captain was not on board at the time of the accident.
The Coast Guard held two days of hearings on the accident in New Orleans in mid-August, and Watson said the hearings will resume Oct. 9 with about 30 more witnesses.
In May, the American Waterways Operators, found DRD wanting on its safety audit. At the hearing, Thomas Allegretti, president and CEO of the association, said that with Coast Guard regulations in place, that information might have been disseminated in a way, and with some consequences, that might have made a difference.
During the hearing both Cummings and the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio, said those responsible for the accident leading to the oil spill should face jail time.
The speed and reliability of two new survey launches carried by the NOAA hydrographic survey ship Rainier have improved overall survey efficiency and safety levels, according to NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.
NOAA received the second of two identical launches built by All American Marine of Bellingham, Wash., earlier this year. The new 28-ft. aluminum-hulled boats replaced launches that were in service for more than 30 years conducting hydrographic survey operations along the Alaskan and West coasts.
The new launches can travel at speeds up to 26 knots, more than twice the speed of the vessels they replaced, drastically reducing the travel time to the work grounds. Their improved reliability has greatly reduced mechanical and electrical downtime while updated electronics and new multibeam sonar systems acquire data at nearly twice the density of the older systems. Additionally the launches are more comfortable for the personnel operating the vessels.
The design of the new launch is based on an evolution of the original hull form designed for NOAA in 1975 and was updated by Jensen Maritime Architects. This proven design features sturdy construction and a full keel for survey work in poorly charted waters. Design updates include an open working deck and 200 lb. capacity A-frame that can mount a wide variety of equipment.
The propulsion package consists of a Cummins QSC 8.3 liter 490-hp engine turning a 25”x26” ZF propeller through a ZF 305 gear. Cruising speed is 24 knots and typical survey speeds are approximately eight knots.
The multi-mission designed boats are equipped with a state-of-the-art hydrographic surveying suite, including dual frequency Reson 7125 multibeam sonar, Applanix POS MV positioning and attitude sensor, and a Brooke Ocean MVP-30 moving vessel profiler. NOAA installed and integrated the survey systems before putting both boats into operational use.
NOAA intends to replace the aging fleet of survey launches with six to eight additional vessels purchased over the next four years.
Article featured in MarineLink.com on April 24, 2006: "NOAA Research Vessel on Vegetarian Diet" Monday, April 24, 2006 in The Huron Explorer.
A 41-ft. former Coast Guard vessel now serving on the Great Lakes is the first modern U.S. research vessel to operate free of petroleum products. Photo credit: NOAA. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) small research vessel is now powered by soybeans. The Huron Explorer, a 41-ft. former Coast Guard vessel now serving on the Great Lakes, is the first U.S. research vessel to operate free of petroleum products. The vessel was given an award by the Department of Energy's Federal Energy Management Program during an Earth Day Week event on the shores of Lake Michigan. "NOAA has a commitment to stewardship of the environment, and this research vessel, the R/V Huron Explorer, demonstrates that commitment in very practical ways. Environmentally friendly vessels are better suited to tread lightly on the ecosystems they help research," said Stephen B. Brandt, NOAA acting deputy assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research. The "You Have the Power" campaign helps federal agencies reach their energy-saving goals by raising awareness about energy efficiency at federal facilities. The federal government can encourage wise energy use, while simultaneously protecting the environment and conserving natural resources. In 2004, the Huron Explorer, a 41-foot former U.S. Coast Guard vessel, joined the fleet of the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory's other two ships that are used to conduct research on the Great Lakes. The Huron Explorer serves the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve in Lake Huron. The other two ships, including the 67-foot Shenehon, which is one of the oldest in the NOAA fleet, use some non-petroleum products. The Shenehon began its use of B100 biodiesel in 2000 and was dubbed the "french fry" ship by some. It showed immediate reductions in visible emissions, smoke and offensive odor, with unchanged performance of the main engine or generators. The use of B100 was a significant achievement in demonstrating soy oil as an alternative fuel in marine applications. B20, a 20 percent blend of soy oil with petroleum diesel, has been in use for a number of years in road vehicles, such as cars, buses and trucks. GLERL's Ship Operations Group, headed by Dennis Donahue, expanded the use of bio-hydraulic oil on the Laurentian, an 80-foot research vessel built in 1974. All systems using the bio-hydraulic oil performed satisfactorily without change to pump or equipment performance while contributing to improved onboard storage and reduced inventory. In August 2005, the Huron Explorer completed its transformation from petroleum products to biofuels and lubricants by incorporating rapeseed-based hydraulic oil for its deck crane, winches, transmission and steering gear, and 100 percent soy biodiesel for engine fuel and canola-based motor oil. "We saw dramatic reductions in emissions and improvements to the original 1974 engines in wet exhaust odor and pollution, " Donahue said. "The biodegradable vegetable oils offer an additional level of environmental protection in case of a spill or leak." Donahue added that the switch to agri-products has improved the work environment of the ships' crews and scientists. "These ships have become real-world field studies that can be used to expand field test data and support other ship conversions," said Donahue. Other NOAA boat operations and some private vessels are implementing similar bio-product conversions based upon experiences at GLERL. GLERL plans to convert the Shenehon's remaining systems to agri-products this year and the Laurentian is slated to convert to B100 biodiesel in 2007, making all three of the ships 100 percent petroleum-free.