Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Regulation!

Ah, another new year. The ball drops in Times Square, awesome fireworks displays in Sydney Harbor, and someplace in Washington, D.C., a computer holds a gazillion words of new regulations just waiting for someone to press print.

Are some of those pages for us? I wouldn't doubt it. It seems that every mistake or blunder by an individual quickly becomes a soapbox for politicians and regulators to ensure that "this will not happen again". Consider this list:

Cosco Busan, Empress of the North, Spirit of Nantucket, MSC Korea.

Who could have missed the Cosco Busan story? A container ship broadsides the Bay Bridge in in the fog, spilling thousands of gallons of bunker fuel. The ship was under the control of a licensed SF Bay Pilot (who is currently collecting unemployment checks and interviewing defense attorneys). Sen. Diane Fienstien wasted no time calling for government intervention for future control of ships in the bay.

Perhaps you missed the Empress of the North, a small passenger ship that sails our west coast and the SE Passage of Alaska. She ran aground for the third time in three years. The most recent incident, in May 2007, while she was being piloted by a freshly minted Mate. Calls for new restrictions are in the works.

The Spirit of Nantucket is another small passenger ship that struck an unknown object in the Intracoastal Waterway, in a very narrow part of the ICW. The captain's intentional grounding of the ship closed the ICW for about 3 days. Also on board was a licensed pilot. The captain is praised for his actions, but the investigation is just beginning.

And then there was the MSC Korea, a large container ship that was just sailing from Savanah, GA, when she lost power and ran aground. She was towed back into port, and tied up at the nearest open dock, which just happened to be an LNG terminal. This has been widely criticised as a major security breach.

All of this in just the past twelve months. These events will have an impact on future regulations. Events of the past have already directly impacted us in 2007. Can you say TWIC? The TWIC is a direct result of 9/11, and that ID card will have zero benefit to our captains performing marine assistance. But it will cost each captain a lost day of work and $132. God only knows what regulations 2008 will bring....