The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

13 October 2006

Coast Guard workshop examines Eastport area waterways safety

by Marie Jones Holmes

Eastport area waters were the subject of a two-day Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Northern New England held October 3 and 4 at the Lucerne Inn in Dedham. Captain Stephen Garrity of the sector served as sponsor of the workshop.

PAWSA studies have been done for about 40 ports and waterways in the United States. Garrity said the Eastport area was one of the smaller ports considered as the subject of a PAWSA study. While the study was not to consider the two liquefied natural gas (LNG) proposals now involved in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permitting process, Garrity said the prospect of LNG vessels using Eastport area waters may have moved Eastport up towards the top of the list for a PAWSA study.

Potomac Management Group of Alexandria, Va., a management consulting firm with numerous Coast Guard contracts, kept the discussion on target. The structured exercise is designed to assess present-day risks on the waterway under study and mitigation of such risks. Risk is defined as the probability of an unwanted event times the impact of that event. Risk factors include the condition of a vessel, traffic conditions, navigational conditions, waterway conditions and the impact study includes immediate consequences and subsequent consequences.

The program listed the study area as Passamaquoddy Bay, but many participants felt it should cover a greater water area. After much discussion, it was decided the area that would be covered would be the contiguous waters of the St. Croix River south of the international bridge, Passamaquoddy Bay and Cobscook Bay to the seaward side of Campobello.

Vessels transiting to and from the Passamaquoddy Bay port area must pass through Canadian waters and navigate along a shared international waterway to reach their port of destination. The workshop included representation and participation from the stakeholders on both sides of the border.

Waterway risk model

Approximately 40 participants and observers, representing a cross-section of the waterway users and other interested parties, including tug and deep-draft vessel operators, shoreside facility and terminal operators, conservation groups, law enforcement, harbormasters, local and regional officials and representatives of federal, state and provincial regulatory agencies, were present. Participants were divided into teams to study five aspects of a waterway risk model — vessel conditions, traffic conditions, navigational conditions, waterway conditions, immediate consequences and subsequent consequences.

Vessel conditions deal with the quality of vessels and their crews that operate on a waterway. Each waterway has what are considered to be high-risk vessels, such as old vessels, vessels with poor safety records, vessels registered in certain foreign countries, vessels belonging to financially strapped owners, and vessels with inexperienced crews. According to the waterway risk model, maintenance, age, flag, ownership, inspection record, casualty history, language barriers, fatigue related issues and local area knowledge are important aspects of risk management.

Traffic conditions include the number of vessels and the mix of vessels that use a waterway and their interactions, especially where there is interaction between vessels or boats of different sizes using the same waterway.

Navigational conditions include winds, water movement, visibility restrictions and obstructions. Waterway conditions include visibility impediments such as moored vessels; dimensions — how much room for two vessels to pass; bottom type <eth>C what do you hit if you hit bottom; and configuration, bends, crossing traffic and convergence.

The waterway risk model also included immediate consequences from incurring a risk including personnel injuries, petroleum discharge, hazardous materials release and waterway closure. Subsequent consequences included health and safety, environmental conditions, aquatic resources and economic loss if a waterway is closed. The closing of a waterway not only impacts the local area economically but can also impact a wide region including the entire nation.

Garrity noted that the PAWSA exercise was neither supportive nor against LNG but rather an assessment of the waterway in an analytical way. A short discussion of LNG matters was held at the end of the second day of the program.

Canada opposes LNG tanker passage

While the workshop deals with present safety conditions and the need to mitigate risk conditions, the possible effects on the subject area if LNG traffic became a reality were briefly discussed. Mihai Balaban of Transport Canada told workshop participants that the Canadian government would be making an announcement concerning the possible passage of LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage, between Campobello Island and Deer Island, into Passamaquoddy Bay.

Two days later Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons in Ottawa stated that Canada does not want LNG tankers in the Canadian waters and will continue to oppose such passage. Ships heading to the proposed LNG projects at Split Rock, Pleasant Point, and Mill Cove in Robbinston would have to transit through Canadian waters.


© 2006 The Quoddy Tides
Eastport, Maine
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.