New rules define qualifications for salvors hired in response to oil tanker accidents

   The U.S. Coast Guard has amended its rules governing oil spill response plans to ensure that only qualified salvors will be hired when tankers are involved in accidents.
The rules, which took effect Jan. 30, give vessel operators 18 months to comply with the regulations. They apply to tankers carrying oil in U.S. waters.
The Coast Guard action marked an important victory for the salvage industry, which has been pushing for stricter salvage and firefighting requirements for many years.
“The regulations standardize the requirements for naming a professional salvor in response plans and will go a long way in helping to protect the nation in the case of weather, accident or terror events," said John A. Witte, Jr., president of the American Salvage Association (ASA). “They will not result in higher costs to tank vessel operators."
Witte explained that when a casualty occurs, the salvage work will go to qualified salvors as defined by the federal regulations. In the past, when there was a casualty and a salvor was needed, vessel operators would often choose the least expensive option rather than hire a company that had the resources to do the job properly, Witte said.
Debra Colbert, an ASA spokeswoman, said the regulations include a more precise definition of a professional salvor, something the salvage industry has been advocating. She noted 15 points in the modified regulations that ensure that salvors and marine firefighters named in a vessel response plan have adequate training, equipment and finances for the job. These criteria specify experience, training certifications, availability of equipment and personnel, response times, membership in relevant organizations, insurance coverage and sufficient capital to support a salvage/marine firefighting operation.
The regulations also define specific salvage services such as assessment and survey, stabilization and specialized operations and the corresponding response times in hours. These response times vary by services provided and location.
Marine firefighting is treated in a similar fashion, focusing on assessment, planning and fire suppression. As with salvage services, response times differ for near and offshore areas.
Witte said that while the marine community had been told on numerous occasions over the last nine years that the new rules were imminent, their issuance was repeatedly delayed. “We are now certain that we will see these modifications implemented in the very near future," he said.
The ASA has had the support of American Waterways Operators and Intertanko in the getting the new modifications published.

By Professional Mariner Staff