Ships and missile ranges don't mix
28th September 2009 16:57 GMT

The recent initiation of CARB's ocean-going vessel fuel rule in July has led some ships to begin bypassing the Santa Barbara Channel and cut through the Navy's Point Mugu Sea Range, likely in order to reduce fuel costs. 

While traversing the Range is technically legal, and both the Navy and Coast Guard claim that little can be done to prohibit the practice, this behaviour is reprehensible for a number of reasons. 

First, it shows that shipping companies want to continue burning deadly bunker fuel for as long as possible. For those entities that claim to be environmental stewards, this is no way to prove one's credentials. 

Second, the influx of ships through the Range is not guided by set routes and traffic patterns, thereby increasing casualty risk. Third, greater numbers of ships passing through the Range – now at over three times previous rates – interrupts Range activities, forces the Navy to expend more time and resources monitoring the area, and potential impairs military readiness. 

So, for those shippers thinking they are well within their rights to cut a swath across the Range just to avoid CARB's regulation and use less distillate, please keep this in mind:  Is it really worth it? It's not often that one can be labelled a poor environmental steward, spill risk, and threat to US military preparedness in one fell swoop. 

Also, for those who think that CARB is to blame for this state of affairs, it isn't.  CARB is just doing its job - making sure the air in this state is clean to breathe - because in many areas, especially around ports, it's not. And that’s attributable, in large part, to ocean-going vessel emissions.

Responsibility for resolving this issue rests with the shipping companies that visit California ports, and their associations, including PMSA, WSC, and others. Many of these companies and associations have embraced environmentally responsible practices, such as shore power and renewable energy technology, and even advocated for strong, far-reaching regulatory proposals, such as the US/Canada Emission Control Area. 

Many of these stances took courage and foresight, qualities that are needed to guide this new challenge. The environmental community, in addition to others, is watching this situation's development with keen interest.        

The industry's trajectory is bending toward a green future, but moments such as this one define how truly green that future will be.  

John Kaltenstein,
28th September 2009 16:57 GMT

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