Friday, November 11, 2011

Coast Guard Recommends Lane Reductions

The US Coast Guard is recommending narrowing shipping lanes used by the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex in order to steer vessels away from areas used by endangered whales.

The recommendation is the result of a yearlong study released Nov. 1 regarding access routes for cargo ships in the Santa Barbara Channel using the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

The Coast Guard study declares that unbounded vessel traffic in the waters south of the Channel Islands is a safety concern and that due to vessel traffic increases, the risk of collision needed to be addressed.

The Coast Guard proposes narrowing the distance between the shipping lanes by moving the southern inbound lane one nautical mile toward the northern lane and leaving a one nautical mile separation between the lanes.

Shifting the southern lane a nautical mile to the north would move vessel traffic away from the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and an underwater area near the Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands populated by endangered blue, fin and humpback whales.

About 50 whales have been struck by ships off the California coast in the last 10 years, according to Coast Guard data, four in 2007 alone.

The Coast Guard proposal also calls for establishing new shipping lanes south of the Channel Islands, where some freighters have been navigating to avoid California air pollution regulations.

The report’s recommendations would have to undergo a federal rulemaking process and review by the International Maritime Organization before they could be implemented.