Below is an article posted today by the AP (linked from the Sacramento Bee) describing how ships are leaving the Santa Barbara Channel to avoid new clean burning fuel regulations. While a significant environmental concern in its own right, what is most important for the OWCN is that, unlike the organized transits that have occurred in the Channel for years, many feel there are increased risks for collisions or possibly even issues with Navy missile testing. Stay tuned for more information on this matter as it develops.
VENTURA, Calif. (AP) – Cargo ships are avoiding the California coast because of tightened air pollution rules, causing problems for Navy missile tests off the Ventura County coast and travel pattern confusion at sea.
California Air Resources Board rules that went into effect last summer mandate that ships within 24 miles of the coast burn cleaner fuel.
Those regulations have now led skippers of about 40 percent of the ships to operate farther at sea – skirting the Santa Barbara Channel – so they can burn dirtier, cheaper fuel, said Marine Exchange of Southern California executive director Dick McKenna. The exchange controls ship traffic at sea.
Those ships are sometimes entering restricted military waters, said John Ugoretz, a marine biologist with the Naval Air Systems Command range where missile tests are conducted. He said an average of two ships a day would enter the 36,000-square-mile military sea range before the new air rules. Up to 10 ships each day now enter restricted military waters.
Ships have historically traveled inside the channel where an established traffic pattern has maintained order. The hundreds of ships in an out of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are now operating under an impromptu traffic flow set up by the Marine Exchange.
McKenna met with mariners, biologists and military officials Friday in Ventura to discuss a possible solution, but long-term changes could take years. There are also suggestions the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could impose a similar clean-fuel rule 200 miles out to sea.
The shipping shift outside the Santa Barbara Channel could be beneficial for migrating whales.
Megan McKenna, a doctoral student at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, says it’s possible collisions would be less frequent.
A study for long-term solutions as well as the impact on whales has begun.