“New Carissa” response plan requirements proposed
Nontank vessel oil spill response plans
The US Coast Guard recently issued its formal proposal to require larger nontank vessels to have detailed oil spill response plans. The original Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) had only required such plans of tank vessels, since it was developed in reaction to the grounding of the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1989. Following the grounding and 70,000 gallon oil spill from the bulk freighter New Carissa near Coos Bay, Oregon on February 4, 1999, there was increasing pressure to require oil spill response plans of all large commercial vessels. Legislation amending OPA 90 in this regard was not adopted until 2004. Due to the press of other important issues, USCG guidance on this expanded requirement was not disseminated until 2005. The official notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was published on August 31, 2009 and is open for comments until November 30. Not surprisingly, it would impose most of the same requirements on nontank vessels capable of carrying at least 2,500 barrels of fuel oil as are now required of tankers carrying oil as cargo. Some are calling this development the New Carissa regulations, as they were largely in reaction to that high-visibility 1999 oil spill on the Oregon coast. Ironically, the wreck of the New Carissa has only recently been removed from the beach, after a multi-year salvage effort. The attached photographs show the vessel shortly after the 1999 grounding and in the final stages of the wreck removal in 2008.