New Coast Guard rules effective in November will require tug escorts for all single-hull tank barges moving through Buzzards Bay. The rule is being put in place to provide an additional safeguard to prevent spills like the one involving a Bouchard barge that leaked 98,000 gallons of fuel oil into Buzzards Bay after running aground in April 2003.
The impetus for the upcoming Buzzards Bay tug escorts was continuous pressure applied by the Coalition for Buzzards Bay and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in appealing a judge's ruling striking down the 2004 Massachusetts Oil Spill Prevention Act. Without pressure from environmentalists, it is doubtful that even single-hull tanker escorts would be required.
It is interesting that a lot has been made of the "pristine" nature of nearby Nantucket Sound, yet no tug escorts are required there.
Buzzards Bay is protected but Nantucket Sound is not
Fifty million gallons of petroleum product are transported through Nantucket Sound each year. The Great Gull, a single-hull tanker built in 1969, regularly shuttles between New York and Nantucket Sound, carrying up to 1.3 million gallons of fuel oil. If the Great Gull operates in Buzzards Bay, it is required to have a tug escort. However, it is not required to have an escort while operating in Vineyard or Nantucket sounds.
If the Nantucket Sound is such a national treasure (like the Grand Canyon?), why aren't tug escorts required for the single-hull tankers and barges moving oil though Nantucket Sound to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard?
Why isn’t the Nantucket Soundkeeper Susan Nickerson sounding off on this issue?
The reason is that the Nickerson regards the Cape Wind project as the "real threat" to Nantucket Sound. Nickerson and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound have been trying to muster up concern over the 40,000 gallons of baby/mineral oil that would be stored on the Cape Wind transformer platform in triple-containment tanks.
Isn't the 32 TIMES that amount in single-hulled moving vessels a greater concern? (Oil spills, by the way, have long lasting effects on the marine life and the environment. Oil can still be found today from the 1969 West Falmouth Harbor oil spill. That's the year when The Great Gull above was built.)
CapeCodToday readers might think that perhaps the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound is not aware of the petroleum shipments in Nantucket Sound. In fact, the Alliance certainly knows of the Great Gull and other single hull vessels operating in the Sound. For example, they’ve cited the Great Gull in their claim of navigation safety risk. Their concern is that the Great Gull might collide with a wind turbine and spill its cargo, as shown here -
Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound / Nantucket Soundkeepers
“The portion of the report released yesterday dealt with oil spill impacts and said that the Corps failed to assess the worst-case scenario in terms of oil spills, as required by law. The report said that the most probable scenario involved the MV Great Gull, which carries up to 1.3 million gallons of fuel oil and petroleum products to Nantucket, striking one or more of the turbines. They estimate that such a collision would rupture two cargo tanks on the vessel, spilling 380,000 gallons of fuel into the sound.”
The Alliance's concern is not shared with one of the Great Gull captains who told me Wednesday (Oct. 31) that he has “absolutely no problem” with the wind farm project.
If SOS/Alliance has concerns about spills from the Great Gull, they could make an attempt to attend the oil spill committee meetings, educate themselves, and push for tug escorts in Nantucket Sound and phase-out of single-hulled petroleum barges/tankers in Nantucket Sound. Doing this in Buzzards Bay was a primary and successful focus of the Coalition for Buzzards Bay.
Unfortunately, SOS/Alliance’s main focus is to kill the Cape Wind project, leaving Nantucket Sound open to far greater threats.