For many years, the US has required that tankers have an approved Tank Vessel Response Plan on board and a “qualified individual” within the US with full authority to implement removal actions in the event of an oil spill incident. These requirements are to be extended to cover non-tank self-propelled vessels of 400 gt or greater that carry oil of any kind as fuel for main propulsion and that operate in US navigable waters. It is anticipated that this will take effect from August 8, 2005. Given the short time before this deadline, and the length of time necessary to develop and publish regulations, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) is providing interim guidance to help owners and operators begin the process of developing these plans.
The USCG has advised that, in the event that regulations are not in effect on August 9, 2005, it may issue a two-year authorisation letter allowing a vessel to operate without an approved response plan provided that the submitted plan:
is consistent with the requirements of the National Contingency and Area Contingency Plansidentifies the qualified individual having full authority to implement removal actions, and requires immediate communications between that individual and the appropriate federal official and the persons providing personnel and equipment as defined below identifies and ensures by contract or other approved means the availability of private personnel and equipment necessary to remove to the maximum extent practicable a worst case discharge (including a discharge resulting from fire or explosion), and to mitigate or prevent a substantial threat of such a dischargedescribes the training, equipment testing, periodic unannounced drills, and response actions of persons on the vessel, to be carried out under the plan to ensure the safety of the vessel and to mitigate or prevent the discharge, or the substantial threat of a discharge will be updated periodically and resubmitted for approval of each significant change
Until superseded by regulations, vessels must have a valid authorization letter in order to operate on or after August 9, 2005. To avoid a disruption of operation, the USCG encourages owners and operators to submit their response plans as soon as possible.