Special Load Line Exemption for the Gulf of Mexico: Petition for Rulemaking, 51134-51136 [2014-19944]

Download as PDF 51134 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 166 / Wednesday, August 27, 2014 / Proposed Rules coordinate protest activities so that your message can be received without jeopardizing the safety or security of people, places or vessels. 7. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 1531–1538) requires Federal agencies to assess the effects of their discretionary regulatory actions. In particular, the Act addresses actions that may result in the expenditure by a State, local, or tribal government, in the aggregate, or by the private sector of $100,000,000 (adjusted for inflation) or more in any one year. Though this proposed rule will not result in such an expenditure, we do discuss the effects of this rule elsewhere in this preamble. 8. Taking of Private Property This proposed rule would not cause a taking of private property or otherwise have taking implications under Executive Order 12630, Governmental Actions and Interference with Constitutionally Protected Property Rights. 9. Civil Justice Reform This proposed rule meets applicable standards in sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform, to minimize litigation, eliminate ambiguity, and reduce burden. 10. Protection of Children We have analyzed this proposed rule under Executive Order 13045, Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks. This rule is not an economically significant rule and would not create an environmental risk to health or risk to safety that might disproportionately affect children. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 11. Indian Tribal Governments This proposed rule does not have tribal implications under Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, because it would not have a substantial direct effect on one or more Indian tribes, on the relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian tribes. 12. Energy Effects This proposed rule is not a ‘‘significant energy action’’ under Executive Order 13211, Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:09 Aug 26, 2014 Jkt 232001 13. Technical Standards This proposed rule does not use technical standards. Therefore, we did not consider the use of voluntary consensus standards. 14. Environment We have analyzed this proposed rule under Department of Homeland Security Management Directive 023–01, and Commandant Instruction M16475.lD which guides the Coast Guard in complying with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321–4370f), and have made a preliminary determination that this action is one of a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment. This proposed rule simply promulgates the operating regulations or procedures for drawbridges. This rule is categorically excluded, under figure 2–1, paragraph (32)(e), of the Instruction. Under figure 2–1, paragraph (32)(e), of the Instruction, an environmental analysis checklist and a categorical exclusion determination are not required for this rule. We seek any comments or information that may lead to the discovery of a significant environmental impact from this proposed rule. List of Subjects in 33 CFR Part 117 Bridges. For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Coast Guard proposes to amend 33 CFR part 117 as follows: PART 117—DRAWBRIDGE OPERATION REGULATIONS 1. The authority citation for part 117 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 33 U.S.C. 499; 33 CFR 1.05–1; Department of Homeland Security Delegation No. 0170.1. 2. Revise § 117.393(c) to read as follows: ■ § 117.393 Illinois Waterway. * * * * * (c) The draws of the McDonough Street Bridge, mile 287.3; Jefferson Street Bridge, Mile 287.9; Cass Street Bridge, Mile 288.1; Jackson Street Bridge, Mile 288.4; and Ruby Street Bridge, Mile 288.7; all of Joliet, shall open on signal, except that they need not open from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Monday through Saturday. These five bridges along with Brandon Road Drawbridge, Mile 285.8, Illinois Waterway are all operated from a local centralized location adjacent to the Jackson Street Bridge, Mile 288.4. Each of these six PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 bridges is equipped with closed circuit television cameras, infrared cameras, and boat detection equipment. * * * * * Dated: August 6, 2014. Kevin S. Cook, Rear Admiral, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard, Eighth Coast Guard District. [FR Doc. 2014–19990 Filed 8–26–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110–04–P DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Coast Guard 46 CFR Part 7 [Docket No. USCG–2011–0925] Special Load Line Exemption for the Gulf of Mexico: Petition for Rulemaking Coast Guard, DHS. Notice of decision. AGENCY: ACTION: On October 1, 2012, the Coast Guard published a Notice of Availability and Request for Public Comment regarding a petition for a rulemaking action. The petition requested that the Coast Guard establish a load lineexempted route in the Gulf of Mexico, along the western coast of Florida. Upon review of the comments as well as analysis of safety considerations and other factors described in the discussion section, the Coast Guard has decided not to proceed with the requested rulemaking. The public comments, and the Coast Guard’s reasoning for its decision, are discussed in this notice. DATES: This decision was issued on August 15, 2014. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: If you have questions on this notice, contact Mr. Thomas Jordan, Naval Architecture Division (CG–ENG–2), U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, at telephone 202–372–1370, or by email at thomas.d.jordan@uscg.mil. If you have questions on viewing or submitting material to the docket, call Cheryl Collins, Program Manager, Docket Operations, telephone 202–366–9826. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Regulatory History and Background The purpose of a load line (LL) assignment is to ensure a vessel is seaworthy for operation outside the Boundary Line. Load lines are required by 46 U.S.C. 5101–5116 and 46 CFR Subchapter E. In general, the LL assignment requires that vessels are robustly constructed, fitted with E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 166 / Wednesday, August 27, 2014 / Proposed Rules watertight and weathertight closures, and are inspected annually to ensure that they are being maintained in a seaworthy condition. Because non-LL river barges are not constructed to those standards, nor subject to the same periodic inspection, they are not normally allowed to operate outside the Boundary Line. However, certain nonLL river barges might be allowed on carefully-evaluated routes, under restricted conditions. Along the U.S. Gulf coast there is a 12-mile-wide nearshore marine corridor, inside of which non-LL vessels can operate (and outside of which commercial vessels 79 feet or longer must have a load line). However, this marine corridor is constricted by an expanse of shallow water off the western coast of Florida. To navigate around that shallow zone requires most commercial vessels to move more than 12 miles offshore (i.e. outside the Boundary Line) for a 32-mile stretch between Crystal River and Tarpon Springs. This excursion outside the Boundary Line precludes fully-loaded non-LL river barges from making that passage (although partially-loaded or empty river barges could make the passage inside the Boundary Line). Therefore, cargoes destined for the Tampa Bay region are transported on LL vessels (which can transit outside the Boundary Line), or by overland modes (truck or rail). On June 29, 2011, Parker Towing Company, Inc., a towboat and barge operator on the U.S. Gulf Coast, sent the Coast Guard a petition letter. The petition requested that the Coast Guard establish a load line-exempted route along the western Florida coast between Crystal River and Tarpon Springs. Commercial vessels 79 feet or longer are normally required to have a load line to operate in those waters; the exemption would allow non-load line river barges to operate on the route under restricted weather and loading conditions. The requested exemption would be a route approximately 32 nautical miles long, 12 to 15 nautical miles offshore. The petition suggests that non-load line (non-LL) river barges could operate on this route under favorable weather conditions and other loading restrictions. This would allow them to directly transport dry, non-hazardous cargoes from upriver terminals (in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi) to the Tampa Bay ports and terminals. The Coast Guard opened docket USCG–2011–0925 and published a Notice of Availability and Request for Public Comment (77 FR 59881, October 1, 2012) with a 90-day comment period. The comment period closed on VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:09 Aug 26, 2014 Jkt 232001 December 31, 2012; however, several comments were submitted after the closing date. The Coast Guard has considered all comments submitted up to March 21, 2014. Discussion of Comments In response to the notice, eleven commenters submitted 38 comments to the docket. The commenters included local manufacturers, towboat and barge operators, mariner association and seafarer unions, and port operators; their comments can be viewed online at www.regulations.gov (enter ‘‘USCG– 2011–0925’’ in the search box). Collectively, the comments fell into five basic categories: In favor of the petition: Supportive commenters included manufacturers located on or near upriver terminals. Although river barges can presently serve some of those companies, their products cannot be shipped by river barges to Tampa Bay. Establishing the exempted route would allow them to use river barges (rather than overland modes, or other maritime transportation options). The Tampa Port Authority and Port Manatee (located on Tampa Bay) also favored the petition as a means to expand cargo movements through their ports. Opposed for reasons of operational safety: Two commenters are towboat and barge companies who operate barges with load lines (LL barges) on the Gulf. On the basis of their operational familiarity with the Gulf waters, they raised concerns regarding the exposed route, the volatility of Gulf weather and sea conditions, and lack of ports-ofrefuge where a tow could find shelter. The commenters also pointed out that LL vessels are periodically inspected to verify that they are maintained in a seaworthy condition, whereas non-LL vessels are not subject to any such inspections, and consequently their seaworthiness is not ensured. For these reasons, the commenters stated that the exempted route would put both the nonLL river barges—and their cargoes—at risk. Another commenter (a mariner association) raised these concerns, too. Opposed for reasons of competitive disadvantage: The LL barge operators pointed out the higher costs of LL barges versus non-LL barges, and expressed concerns that they could find themselves unfairly competing against lower-cost non-LL operators on load line routes. As one commenter stated: ‘‘Companies which invest such substantial sums, not just to meet the requirements of law and regulation, but to ensure that they safely and responsibly serve the requirements of shippers in that market, should not have PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 51135 to compete against unsafe operations facilitated by a waiver of the rules.’’ Opposed for reasons of mariner safety: Several commenters expressed concerns about mariners working on a non-LL barge in offshore waters (even if boarding only temporarily, to adjust towlines for example). One commenter asked several detailed questions about the type of barge and cargo contemplated, and the specifics of the route planned. Administrative comments: One commenter inquired about a May 2011 letter from the Coast Guard referenced in the petitioner’s letter. We have posted the letter in the docket. The commenter also asks about the status of MARAD docket number 2010–0035 regarding America’s Marine Highways, but we have no relevant information about that Department of Transportation docket. Discussion of Decision The overall purpose of a load line assignment, and the waters in which commercial vessels must comply, are described in the Notice of Availability (79 FR 59881, October 1, 2012) and in 46 CFR subchapter E. When assigning a load line, the Coast Guard is required by 46 U.S.C. 5104(b) to consider the service, type and character of the vessel, the geographic area in which the vessel will operate, and applicable international agreements to which the United States is a party. The Coast Guard may exempt vessels from load line requirements for good cause (see 46 U.S.C. 5108 and 46 CFR 42.03–30) and vessel owners and operators may apply for special service load lines (46 CFR part 44). The Coast Guard has existing regulations at 46 CFR part 45, subpart E, exempting certain unmanned, riverservice, dry-cargo barges from Great Lakes load line requirements in limited circumstances. The Coast Guard’s analysis and public comments highlighted the fact that there are barges, which meet the load line standards, that are already engaged in commercial service along this route today. Barges which meet load line standards include design features to prevent down-flooding, and to prevent progressive flooding and sinking through subdivision of the vessel’s interior. If the Coast Guard were to approve this petition, it would allow vessels of a type and character which do not meet the same safety standards for design, construction, operation and inspection to engage in trade along this route, thereby reducing the established minimum safe construction and operating standards for vessels traveling along this offshore route. E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 51136 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 166 / Wednesday, August 27, 2014 / Proposed Rules Although the petitioner argues that operating a few miles beyond the limits established in the regulations should be considered as safe as operating within the limits, the maritime regulations are based on the existence of well documented thresholds beyond which higher standards apply. To consider this request under that logic would be to undermine a key foundation in the Coast Guard’s approach to maritime regulation. Moreover, the area’s geography contains a large expanse of shallow water along the proposed route, which would preclude a fully laden barge from seeking a close port of refuge in an emergency. Depending on where the barge was in its journey, the nearest accessible port of refuge may be as far as 31 miles away. We also considered evaluating this request based on geographically limiting the route from a specific upriver port or terminal to a specific port or destination in Tampa. In a prior petition for an exemption on the Great Lakes, this was the approach that was taken to severely limit the scope of application and ensure an adequate level of safety along a limited route within the Great Lakes. Even if the Coast Guard restricted the exemption to only those vessels that originated at certain up-river terminals, as was done on the Great Lakes, this decision would allow non-LL river barges to operate on a LL route, which would create a multi-tiered regulatory regime, based on specific routes between designated upriver terminals and the Tampa Bay ports. Under this regime, a tug that traveled from a designated upriver terminal to Tampa Bay would be able to use a non-LL river barge, but a tug that traveled along the same waters between other coastal ports and Tampa Bay would have to use a LL barge. The Coast Guard believes such discrepancies do not serve the interests of maritime safety or maritime commerce generally, because they foster confusion and opportunities for abuse, and can remove or weaken incentives for safety and efficiency. Moreover, a multi-tiered regulatory regime is unenforceable as a practical matter. Load line and non-LL barges can legitimately be found in the same port and there is nothing that inherently identifies a non-LL barge participating in any such multi-tiered program. Therefore, if the requested exempted route is established, there is nothing that effectively prevents non-LL barges from loading cargoes at any Gulf port (not just upriver terminals) for delivery to Tampa, or for return cargoes (loaded at Tampa) to be delivered to any Gulf port. In order to prevent such transits, the Coast Guard would need to VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:09 Aug 26, 2014 Jkt 232001 individually inspect the cargo manifest and vessel logs for all non-LL barges, causing delay to all vessels including those that may be on permissible voyages inside the Boundary Line. The delay to commercial shipping and the diversion of Coast Guard resources to this effort are not practicable or in the interest of maritime commerce. With minor exceptions, the U.S. requirements for domestic load line are the same as the requirements for an international load line and are consistent with the International Load Line Convention. As a party to the convention, the U.S. is obliged to promote standardization of load line regulations. Our decision to deny the petition is consistent with this obligation. For all the reasons above, the Coast Guard denies the petition and will not undertake the rulemaking requested. This notice is issued under authority of 5 U.S.C. 553(e), 555(e) and 46 U.S.C. 5108. Dated: August 15, 2014. J.G. Lantz, Director of Commercial Regulations and Standards, U.S. Coast Guard. [FR Doc. 2014–19944 Filed 8–26–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110–04–P FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION 47 CFR Chapter I [MB Docket No. 14–127; DA 14–1149] Petition for Rulemaking; Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, and the Sunlight Foundation Seeking Expansion of Online Public File Obligations Federal Communications Commission. ACTION: Notice of petition for rulemaking; solicitation of comments. AGENCY: The Media Bureau solicits public comment on a Petition for Rulemaking requesting that the FCC initiate a rulemaking to expand to cable and satellite the requirement that public and political files be posted to the FCC’s online database. The Media Bureau also seeks comment on expanding public file obligations to radio licensees. DATES: Comments may be filed on or before August 28, 2014, and reply comments may be filed on or before September 8, 2014. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by MB Docket No. 14–127, by any of the following methods: SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • Federal Communications Commission’s Web site: http:// fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • Mail: Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission’s Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission. • People With Disabilities: Contact the FCC to request reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language interpreters, CART, etc.) by email: FCC504@fcc.gov or phone: (202) 418–0530 or TTY: (202) 418–0432. For detailed instructions for submitting comments and additional information on the rulemaking process, see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Matthews, Media Bureau, Policy Division, 202–418–2154, or email at kim.matthews@fcc.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Media Bureau’s document in MB Docket No. 14–127, DA 14–1149, released on August 7, 2014. The full text of this document is available for public inspection and copying during regular business hours in the FCC Reference Center, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY–A257, Washington, DC 20554. The complete text may be purchased from the Commission’s copy contractor, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY–B402, Washington, DC 20554. This document will also be available via ECFS at http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/. Documents will be available electronically in ASCII, Microsoft Word, and/or Adobe Acrobat. Alternative formats are available for people with disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format) by sending an email to fcc504@fcc.gov or calling the Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418–0530 (voice), (202) 418–0432 (TTY). Summary The Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation filed a Petition for Rulemaking requesting that the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) ‘‘initiate a rulemaking to expand to cable and satellite systems the requirement that E:\FR\FM\27AUP1.SGM 27AUP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 166 (Wednesday, August 27, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 51134-51136]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-19944]


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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Coast Guard

46 CFR Part 7

[Docket No. USCG-2011-0925]


Special Load Line Exemption for the Gulf of Mexico: Petition for 
Rulemaking

AGENCY: Coast Guard, DHS.

ACTION: Notice of decision.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: On October 1, 2012, the Coast Guard published a Notice of 
Availability and Request for Public Comment regarding a petition for a 
rulemaking action. The petition requested that the Coast Guard 
establish a load line-exempted route in the Gulf of Mexico, along the 
western coast of Florida. Upon review of the comments as well as 
analysis of safety considerations and other factors described in the 
discussion section, the Coast Guard has decided not to proceed with the 
requested rulemaking. The public comments, and the Coast Guard's 
reasoning for its decision, are discussed in this notice.

DATES: This decision was issued on August 15, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: If you have questions on this notice, 
contact Mr. Thomas Jordan, Naval Architecture Division (CG-ENG-2), U.S. 
Coast Guard Headquarters, at telephone 202-372-1370, or by email at 
thomas.d.jordan@uscg.mil. If you have questions on viewing or 
submitting material to the docket, call Cheryl Collins, Program 
Manager, Docket Operations, telephone 202-366-9826.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Regulatory History and Background

    The purpose of a load line (LL) assignment is to ensure a vessel is 
seaworthy for operation outside the Boundary Line. Load lines are 
required by 46 U.S.C. 5101-5116 and 46 CFR Subchapter E. In general, 
the LL assignment requires that vessels are robustly constructed, 
fitted with

[[Page 51135]]

watertight and weathertight closures, and are inspected annually to 
ensure that they are being maintained in a seaworthy condition. Because 
non-LL river barges are not constructed to those standards, nor subject 
to the same periodic inspection, they are not normally allowed to 
operate outside the Boundary Line. However, certain non-LL river barges 
might be allowed on carefully-evaluated routes, under restricted 
conditions.
    Along the U.S. Gulf coast there is a 12-mile-wide nearshore marine 
corridor, inside of which non-LL vessels can operate (and outside of 
which commercial vessels 79 feet or longer must have a load line). 
However, this marine corridor is constricted by an expanse of shallow 
water off the western coast of Florida. To navigate around that shallow 
zone requires most commercial vessels to move more than 12 miles 
offshore (i.e. outside the Boundary Line) for a 32-mile stretch between 
Crystal River and Tarpon Springs. This excursion outside the Boundary 
Line precludes fully-loaded non-LL river barges from making that 
passage (although partially-loaded or empty river barges could make the 
passage inside the Boundary Line). Therefore, cargoes destined for the 
Tampa Bay region are transported on LL vessels (which can transit 
outside the Boundary Line), or by overland modes (truck or rail).
    On June 29, 2011, Parker Towing Company, Inc., a towboat and barge 
operator on the U.S. Gulf Coast, sent the Coast Guard a petition 
letter. The petition requested that the Coast Guard establish a load 
line-exempted route along the western Florida coast between Crystal 
River and Tarpon Springs. Commercial vessels 79 feet or longer are 
normally required to have a load line to operate in those waters; the 
exemption would allow non-load line river barges to operate on the 
route under restricted weather and loading conditions.
    The requested exemption would be a route approximately 32 nautical 
miles long, 12 to 15 nautical miles offshore. The petition suggests 
that non-load line (non-LL) river barges could operate on this route 
under favorable weather conditions and other loading restrictions. This 
would allow them to directly transport dry, non-hazardous cargoes from 
upriver terminals (in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi) to the Tampa 
Bay ports and terminals.
    The Coast Guard opened docket USCG-2011-0925 and published a Notice 
of Availability and Request for Public Comment (77 FR 59881, October 1, 
2012) with a 90-day comment period. The comment period closed on 
December 31, 2012; however, several comments were submitted after the 
closing date. The Coast Guard has considered all comments submitted up 
to March 21, 2014.

Discussion of Comments

    In response to the notice, eleven commenters submitted 38 comments 
to the docket. The commenters included local manufacturers, towboat and 
barge operators, mariner association and seafarer unions, and port 
operators; their comments can be viewed online at www.regulations.gov 
(enter ``USCG-2011-0925'' in the search box).
    Collectively, the comments fell into five basic categories:
    In favor of the petition: Supportive commenters included 
manufacturers located on or near upriver terminals. Although river 
barges can presently serve some of those companies, their products 
cannot be shipped by river barges to Tampa Bay. Establishing the 
exempted route would allow them to use river barges (rather than 
overland modes, or other maritime transportation options). The Tampa 
Port Authority and Port Manatee (located on Tampa Bay) also favored the 
petition as a means to expand cargo movements through their ports.
    Opposed for reasons of operational safety: Two commenters are 
towboat and barge companies who operate barges with load lines (LL 
barges) on the Gulf. On the basis of their operational familiarity with 
the Gulf waters, they raised concerns regarding the exposed route, the 
volatility of Gulf weather and sea conditions, and lack of ports-of-
refuge where a tow could find shelter. The commenters also pointed out 
that LL vessels are periodically inspected to verify that they are 
maintained in a seaworthy condition, whereas non-LL vessels are not 
subject to any such inspections, and consequently their seaworthiness 
is not ensured. For these reasons, the commenters stated that the 
exempted route would put both the non-LL river barges--and their 
cargoes--at risk. Another commenter (a mariner association) raised 
these concerns, too.
    Opposed for reasons of competitive disadvantage: The LL barge 
operators pointed out the higher costs of LL barges versus non-LL 
barges, and expressed concerns that they could find themselves unfairly 
competing against lower-cost non-LL operators on load line routes. As 
one commenter stated: ``Companies which invest such substantial sums, 
not just to meet the requirements of law and regulation, but to ensure 
that they safely and responsibly serve the requirements of shippers in 
that market, should not have to compete against unsafe operations 
facilitated by a waiver of the rules.''
    Opposed for reasons of mariner safety: Several commenters expressed 
concerns about mariners working on a non-LL barge in offshore waters 
(even if boarding only temporarily, to adjust towlines for example). 
One commenter asked several detailed questions about the type of barge 
and cargo contemplated, and the specifics of the route planned.
    Administrative comments: One commenter inquired about a May 2011 
letter from the Coast Guard referenced in the petitioner's letter. We 
have posted the letter in the docket. The commenter also asks about the 
status of MARAD docket number 2010-0035 regarding America's Marine 
Highways, but we have no relevant information about that Department of 
Transportation docket.

Discussion of Decision

    The overall purpose of a load line assignment, and the waters in 
which commercial vessels must comply, are described in the Notice of 
Availability (79 FR 59881, October 1, 2012) and in 46 CFR subchapter E. 
When assigning a load line, the Coast Guard is required by 46 U.S.C. 
5104(b) to consider the service, type and character of the vessel, the 
geographic area in which the vessel will operate, and applicable 
international agreements to which the United States is a party. The 
Coast Guard may exempt vessels from load line requirements for good 
cause (see 46 U.S.C. 5108 and 46 CFR 42.03-30) and vessel owners and 
operators may apply for special service load lines (46 CFR part 44). 
The Coast Guard has existing regulations at 46 CFR part 45, subpart E, 
exempting certain unmanned, river-service, dry-cargo barges from Great 
Lakes load line requirements in limited circumstances.
    The Coast Guard's analysis and public comments highlighted the fact 
that there are barges, which meet the load line standards, that are 
already engaged in commercial service along this route today. Barges 
which meet load line standards include design features to prevent down-
flooding, and to prevent progressive flooding and sinking through 
subdivision of the vessel's interior. If the Coast Guard were to 
approve this petition, it would allow vessels of a type and character 
which do not meet the same safety standards for design, construction, 
operation and inspection to engage in trade along this route, thereby 
reducing the established minimum safe construction and operating 
standards for vessels traveling along this offshore route.

[[Page 51136]]

    Although the petitioner argues that operating a few miles beyond 
the limits established in the regulations should be considered as safe 
as operating within the limits, the maritime regulations are based on 
the existence of well documented thresholds beyond which higher 
standards apply. To consider this request under that logic would be to 
undermine a key foundation in the Coast Guard's approach to maritime 
regulation. Moreover, the area's geography contains a large expanse of 
shallow water along the proposed route, which would preclude a fully 
laden barge from seeking a close port of refuge in an emergency. 
Depending on where the barge was in its journey, the nearest accessible 
port of refuge may be as far as 31 miles away.
    We also considered evaluating this request based on geographically 
limiting the route from a specific upriver port or terminal to a 
specific port or destination in Tampa. In a prior petition for an 
exemption on the Great Lakes, this was the approach that was taken to 
severely limit the scope of application and ensure an adequate level of 
safety along a limited route within the Great Lakes. Even if the Coast 
Guard restricted the exemption to only those vessels that originated at 
certain up-river terminals, as was done on the Great Lakes, this 
decision would allow non-LL river barges to operate on a LL route, 
which would create a multi-tiered regulatory regime, based on specific 
routes between designated upriver terminals and the Tampa Bay ports. 
Under this regime, a tug that traveled from a designated upriver 
terminal to Tampa Bay would be able to use a non-LL river barge, but a 
tug that traveled along the same waters between other coastal ports and 
Tampa Bay would have to use a LL barge. The Coast Guard believes such 
discrepancies do not serve the interests of maritime safety or maritime 
commerce generally, because they foster confusion and opportunities for 
abuse, and can remove or weaken incentives for safety and efficiency.
    Moreover, a multi-tiered regulatory regime is unenforceable as a 
practical matter. Load line and non-LL barges can legitimately be found 
in the same port and there is nothing that inherently identifies a non-
LL barge participating in any such multi-tiered program. Therefore, if 
the requested exempted route is established, there is nothing that 
effectively prevents non-LL barges from loading cargoes at any Gulf 
port (not just upriver terminals) for delivery to Tampa, or for return 
cargoes (loaded at Tampa) to be delivered to any Gulf port. In order to 
prevent such transits, the Coast Guard would need to individually 
inspect the cargo manifest and vessel logs for all non-LL barges, 
causing delay to all vessels including those that may be on permissible 
voyages inside the Boundary Line. The delay to commercial shipping and 
the diversion of Coast Guard resources to this effort are not 
practicable or in the interest of maritime commerce.
    With minor exceptions, the U.S. requirements for domestic load line 
are the same as the requirements for an international load line and are 
consistent with the International Load Line Convention. As a party to 
the convention, the U.S. is obliged to promote standardization of load 
line regulations. Our decision to deny the petition is consistent with 
this obligation.
    For all the reasons above, the Coast Guard denies the petition and 
will not undertake the rulemaking requested.
    This notice is issued under authority of 5 U.S.C. 553(e), 555(e) 
and 46 U.S.C. 5108.

    Dated: August 15, 2014.
J.G. Lantz,
Director of Commercial Regulations and Standards, U.S. Coast Guard.
[FR Doc. 2014-19944 Filed 8-26-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 9110-04-P