US Coast Guard warns of wind turbine cargo safety risks

The Inspections and Compliance Directorate of the US Coast Guard has issued a marine safety information bulletin (MSIB) 04-23 that warned mariners of a growing number of bulk carriers arriving in the US that had wind turbine parts stowed in a way that significantly limited visibility from the navigation bridge.

The bulletin advised that many of these vessels were given dispensation letters by their flag administration or recognized organization. These letters exempted them temporarily from compliance with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974 Chapter V, Regulation 22, which specifies requirements for navigation bridge visibility standards.

Some of these vessels are intended to pass through restricted navigational channels and congested inland waterways, which has raised concerns with the USCG about the safety implications of the exemption.

The USCG emphasized in the MSIB that that dispensation letters from flag administrations or recognized organizations did not exempt vessels from corresponding US requirements on navigation bridge visibility. These are set out in Title 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 164.15.

The USCG reminded vessel operators that if their ships did not comply with US regulations for navigation bridge visibility, they had to notify the local Coast Guard Sector with a request for exemption, before entering US waters.

Under 33 CFR 164.55, the Captain of the Port (COTP) can grant an exemption provided this would not impair the vessel’s safe navigation under anticipated conditions and would not violate the rules for preventing collisions at sea. However, the USCG has now clarified that such permissions are not typically granted for situations intentionally counter to the regulations. Nor are they typically granted solely for convenience or financial incentive.

The USCG urged vessel owners, operators, flag administrations, and recognized organizations to ensure adequate voyage planning. This would include making appropriate cargo stowage arrangements and verifying that the vessel complied with all mandatory rules and regulations.