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Bay Bridge Casualties Result in New Rules for Outbound Ships

By MarEx 2013-02-20 11:24:00

The U.S. Coast Guard has enforced new rules preventing outbound cargo ships and tankers from passing under San Francisco’s Bay Bridge during heavy fog conditions.

These new restrictions aim to prevent marine casualties similar to last month’s Overseas Reymar allusion, as well as the 2007 Cosco Busan disaster. Fog was a factor in both of these incidents; visibility was about a quarter-mile in each instance.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, The USCG implemented the rules after the San Francisco Harbor Safety Committee, an advisory panel, voted unanimously to bar ships more than 1,600 gross tons from sailing out of the bay when visibility is less than half a mile. The new rules also extend to tugs with barges of 1600 gross tons or more. 

Although the rules are classified as voluntary, the Coast Guard expects universal compliance of these guidelines.

The committee imposed stricter measures for navigating in fog for nine areas near bridges after the Cosco Busan accident, but did not include the Bay Bridge due to concerns that it would cause shipping traffic jams.

Under the new rules, announced yesterday, ships have to radio their location and report any restricted weather conditions to the Vessel Traffic Service. If visibility is not severely restricted, vessels heading out to sea will be allowed to pass through the two widest gaps between towers. When visibility is less than half a mile, outbound ships will be kept in port, while inbound ships will be advised to use extreme caution.

The safety panel left out inbound vessels from the visibility rule because of worries that it could threaten the ships’ safety outside the Golden Gate Bridge.

The San Francisco Harbor Safety Committee is comprised of 23 members from the shipping industry, governmental agencies and environmental groups.

Read the Official Marine Safety and Security Information Bulletin for additional details on the new navigation rules.