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Coast Guard Changes Rules Following November Fuel Odor Event

Late last month, the United States Coast Guard changed the rules regarding the transfer of oil and hazardous materials between water-based vessels and facilities. The move came in response to oil transfer activities at Public Service Marine in Alameda, early last November.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) issued public nuisance violation notices to Public Service Marine, also known as Starlight Marine, following complaints from Alameda residents of a pervasive odor of fuel or gas in the air on November 4th. Public Service Marine operates a dock along the Alameda estuary near the former U.S. Navy FISC property. According to records obtained by Action Alameda News, the source of the odor was a “lightering” operation – transferring oil to smaller vessels – conducted at the dock involving the barges Jovalan and Olympic Spirit. The oil was scheduled for unloading at the Conoco Phillips Refinery in Rodeo. The Olympic Spirit had already left Alameda by the time a BAAQMD inspector arrived, but was eventually inspected in Rodeo. The inspector found that 9 out of 10 cargo tanks on the Jovalan was leaking and noted “strong crude oil odors” present on the barge and on the wharf.

Denise Lai, an Alameda resident who reported the odor to BAAQMD on the day of the event, and has pressed on BAAQMD to prevent future releases, told Action Alameda News, “They [Public Service Marine] were playing fast and loose with the rules around transferring oil from one tanker to another. My concern is that they will continue to use the Jovalan, which is a single-hulled vessel. Single-hulled vessels have been on a sunset program since 1990 and are not supposed to be used to transfer oil. Jovalan’s single-hulled permit is active and good until next year.”

A December 29, 2010 marine safety bulletin issued by the Coast Guard changes previous policy, so that now, “Pier-side lightering of Noxious Liquid Substances, as listed in Table 1 of 46 CFR 153, is only permitted at fixed oil facilities that comply with 33 CFR 154 subpart F.” This change will prevent the use of the so-called “reefer dock” at Public Service Marine from being used for the sort of oil transfers that caused the odor back in November.

Deb Self, the Executive Director of Baykeeper in San Francisco, a self-described pollution watchdog group, was also notified by Denise Lai of the November events and the Coast Guard rule change. Ms. Self did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

November Fourth 2010 Oil Transfer

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