Calling the recent rash of oil tanker accidents in U.S. waters "intolerable," Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams yesterday established new rules for operating such ships and ordered his agency to step up monitoring of navigation safety standards.
Adams also established a new task of top-level associates to create maritime safety policy for the department and called on the group to determine "at the earliest possible date" regulations to reduce the potential for oil spills.
The DOT's new regulations, published yesterday in the Federal Register, require big tankers to have certain navigation equipment and to follow a number of procedures. Specifically, Adams ordered:
That long range navigation (Loran) equipment, an electronic system using shore-based radio transmitters and shipboard receivers, be required on all tank vessels of 1,600 or more gross tons operating in U.S. waters. The new system would replace earlier transmitters developed during World War II.
Establishment of better communications on baord the giant tankers, including a requirement that the ships regularly report positions.
Testing of critical ship maneuvering systems within 12 hours prior to entering or getting underway in U.S. waters.
Mandatory use of some navigation equipment commonly installed on newer ships.
Notification of the Coast Guard, the DOT unit in charge of ocean operations, whenever navigational equipment is out of order - presumably allowing the Coast Guard to decide whether or not a ship will be permitted entry in U.S. waters.
The Adams task force will be chaired by Allan Butchman, the deputy secretary adn second-ranking official in the department. Members will include key assistant secretaries as well as the Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Owen W. Siler.
They were told by Adams to complete an "immediate, in-depth review of the entire regulatory spectrum dealing with tankers."
A goal of the study, Adams said, will be to "ensure that the highest possible standards of safety are maintained in U.S. navigable waters."
In the meantime, he said, the new regulations will "take a big step toward reducing these accidents and the casualties and pollution they cause."
Since a Liberian-registered tanker, the Argo Merchant, spilled 7.6 million gallons of oil off the Massachuettes coast in December, more than a dozen other tanker mishaps have occured in or near U.S. waters.