Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Coal: EIS Scoping Comment No. 26

Tugs, Pilots, Spill Response & Rescue Vessels

If GPT is ever built, nearly 500 ultra large Bulk Carriers may be attracted to Cherry Point each year. 
Each of these Capesize [up to 70-foot draft] and Panamax [up to 40-foot draft] vessels will require the likely assistance of 2 to 4 powerful tugboats, plus registered pilots and, hopefully, mandatory spill response and rescue work boats.
While necessary for safety and ecological prudence, these additional vessels represent additional marine traffic and potential harms, making it necessary to fully consider them in any comprehensive EIS.

Here are some specific questions for the MAP Team's consideration:
For Tugs -
• What criteria will be used to determine the size, horsepower power ratings, crew size and number of tugs required for each ultra-large vessel as it arrives and departs? 
• At what point/location will these tugs meet these incoming vessels? At what point/location will tug escort be ended for outgoing vessels?
• Where will these tugs be based? Is there a plan for tugs to be based at Cherry Point?
• What proportion of tugs will qualify as ocean-going? 
• Will all tugs be equipped with water monitors, in the event that water-borne firefighting is necessary?
• What grade of diesel fuel will the tugs use? What are the anticipated air emissions (per hour)? Where will fueling be done?
• Some larger tugs are rated at 25,000 to 30,000 Horsepower, or 5 times that of larger diesel locomotives. Will these be necessary to maneuver ultra-large vessels? When, and under what weather and marine conditions?

For Pilot Boats -
• At what point/location will these Pilot Boats meet these incoming vessels? At what point/location will the Pilot escort be ended for outgoing vessels?
• Will the Pilot have discretion over vessel movement decisions -including tugs- under all sea-state and weather conditions? Over excessive vessel traffic in close or restricted waters? 

Spill Response Work Boats -
• What plans for Spill Response apply to to GPT? 
• Specify what type of specialty work boats will be required to be immediately available, should a fuel or other spill be encountered. What equipment is to be carried? What crew size and training?
• Who provides these work boats? Who pays for them? Where will they be based?

Rescue Vessels -
• What specific plans does GPT have to provide rescue services on demand? Who pays for this?
Where will these vessels be based? What role is anticipated for the US Coast Guard?

It is essential for answers to these questions be developed and made available to the public before any approvals are granted to GPT. 
Each of these support craft carries its own impacts on vessel traffic, nearshore water disturbance, and potential impacts on the marine ecology, most particularly the tugs with their powerful engines and thrusters capable of moving 250,000 dwt Bulk Carrier Vessels.