Potential rise in Salish Sea traffic spurs Coast Guard safety forum

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(SEATTLE) — Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound hosted a Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment workshop at the Whatcom County Emergency Operations Center in Bellingham this week, comprised of more than 80 maritime and waterway community users, stakeholders and representatives from Canada, the state of Washington, Coast Salish tribes and indigenous peoples.

The PAWSA panel focused on the Port Angeles Precautionary Area, Haro Strait, Boundary Pass and Rosario Strait.

While the volume of vessel traffic in the Salish Sea region on the whole has remained constant, or even decreased, the Coast Guard recognizes that if certain petroleum-based expansion projects in Canada are approved, vessel traffic to Canada may increase as a result of additional export activity. The PAWSA gathered relevant stakeholders to collaboratively address these potential increases to ensure the safety and environmental protection, that includes whale protection measures.

“The U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures that facilitate commerce, improve waterway safety and efficiency, and inspire dialogue with port and waterways users in an effort to make our waterways as safe, efficient and commercially viable as possible,” said Capt. Linda Sturgis, commander, captain of the port, Sector Puget Sound. “Importantly, we can do all of this while continuing to uphold our responsibility as a federal trustee to protect tribal treaty rights. Many people shared their experiences and interactions with other waterway users and I’m encouraged by the knowledge and expertise of this group.”

The PAWSA panel represents a reliable and respected cross section of waterway community leaders who have expertise and current knowledge in pilotage, ship handling, aids to navigation, maritime law enforcement, vessel traffic management, protection of natural resources, marine casualty response and investigation and waterway community planning and economics. The PAWSA process represents a significant part of joint public-private sector planning for mitigating risk in waterways. When applied consistently and uniformly, the process provides a basis for making best value decisions for risk mitigation investments.

The ultimate goal of PAWSA is to provide the Coast Guard and waterway community with an effective tool to evaluate risk and work toward long-term solutions tailored to local circumstances. A report will be produced and made available to the public that outlines results from participant discussion, comments made during the workshop and specific recommendations as to what mitigation strategies should be implemented.

The last PAWSA for this area was conducted in 2002 and can be found by clicking here.

By Professional Mariner Staff