Thursday, May 3, 2012

The San Francisco Bay Region’s Harbor Safety Committee: Communication and collaboration fuel success.

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Ms. Joan Lundstrom, chair, Harbor Safety Committee of the San Francisco Bay Region.

The Harbor Safety Committee of the SF Bay Region’s jurisdiction extends 100 miles from the San Francisco Lighted Horn Buoy 12 miles offshore to the inland Ports of Sacramento and Stockton.
The Harbor Safety Committee (HSC) of the San Francisco Bay Region is continuing its collaboration with the Coast Guard, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and local stakeholders to enhance navigational safety and prevent maritime accidents and spills.

AIS Dock Identification System
In 2005, the HSC navigation work group labored to develop a dock and berth numbering scheme based on local codes used to indicate AIS locations. Working with the Coast Guard vessel traffic service (VTS) staff, the stakeholders in the region numbered every current and future dock in a logical and consistent manner.

Though there was some initial reluctance to move away from the legacy dock and berth names, the VTS and community became more comfortable using the new identification scheme, and it has become the standard and the model for other regions.

Near-Miss in Dense Fog
Subsequently, during an HSC meeting, a ferry captain reported a near-miss of two commuter ferries in dense fog at the ferry building. The ferry operations work group analyzed and developed an approach and maneuvering scheme for the congested ferry building approach and departure area, as well as a routing protocol in the central Bay, to decrease the risk of collision for commuter ferries.
With ferry routes charted, other types of vessels, including recreational boats, can more easily predict the locations of the fast ferries and steer clear.

Container Ship Struck Bay Bridge
In November 2007, a container ship struck the Bay Bridge in dense fog. Within days of the spill, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger directed the Office of Spill Prevention and Response to investigate the causes and response to the allision. The office called upon the harbor safety committee to analyze the navigational safety-related issues of the governor’s directive and make appropriate recommendations regarding prevention.

Loss of Propulsion Incidents from Mandated Low-Sulfur Fuel
In 2009 another maritime challenge arose when Coast Guard Sector San Francisco and the bar pilots alerted the harbor safety committee of a dramatic increase in total loss of propulsion of ships following implementation of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) low-sulfur fuel switching requirement. 

The HSC chair contacted the ARB staff to meet with the maritime community to discuss the unintended consequences of the regulation. As a result, the California Air Resources Board agreed to actively promulgate safety exemption provisions to mariners, work with the Coast Guard on outreach, and report monthly to the harbor safety committee on waivers.

The Coast Guard and the HSC continue to monitor propulsion failures in the San Francisco Bay region. While the number of ships experiencing problems associated with fuel switching is down, it is essential to determine where low-sulfur fuel results in a loss of propulsion, determine the cause, and vigorously communicate lessons learned.

Every day commercial ships transit in and out of San Francisco Bay.
Full article is available at