US Nontank Vessel Response Plan Requirements


Published: 6 June 2005

Members will be aware from the Club’s previous website notices that recent U.S. legislation requires any nontank vessel of 400 gross tons or greater, operating in the navigable waters of the U.S. and carrying oil of any kind as fuel for main propulsion, to submit a vessel response plan for approval to the U.S. Coast Guard. Plans must be submitted to the Coast Guard no later than 8 August 2005. Because of anticipated delays in reviewing and approving the response plans, and to avoid possible disruption of operations, the Coast Guard has encouraged submission of the plans as soon as possible, but no later than 8 July 2005.

The statutory requirements are similar to those currently applicable to tank vessels, in that the response plans must –

  1. Be consistent with the requirements of the National Contingency Plan and Area Contingency Plans;
  2. Identify the Qualified Individual (QI) having full authority to implement removal actions, and require immediate communications between that individual and the appropriate Federal official and the persons providing personnel and equipment pursuant to paragraph (3) below;
  3. Identify and ensure by contract or other means approved by the Coast Guard the availability of private personnel and equipment necessary to remove to the maximum extent practicable a worst case discharge (including a discharge resulting from fire or explosion), and to mitigate or prevent a substantial threat of such a discharge;
  4. Describe the training, equipment testing, periodic unannounced drills, and response actions of persons on the vessel, to be carried out under the plan to ensure the safety of the vessel and to mitigate or prevent the discharge, or the substantial threat of a discharge;
  5. Be updated periodically; and 
  6. Be resubmitted for approval of each significant change.

The Coast Guard has not yet issued formal regulations implementing these requirements. To assist nontank vessel owners and operators in meeting the statutory deadline, on 4 February 2005 the Coast Guard issued an “Interim Guidance for the Development and Review of Response Plans for Nontank Vessels” which provides detailed guidance for preparation and submission of the plans. The Guidance document is available on the U.S. Coast Guard website,  

In view of the anticipated delays in the approval process, the Coast Guard may issue an interim authorization letter permitting nontank vessels to operate without an approved response plan for up to two years after submission of the plans, provided the owner or operator certifies that the required contracted resources are available for its vessels and a plan is submitted meeting the basic requirements outlined above. Nontank vessels must have a valid interim authorization letter or valid authorization letter in order to operate on or after 9 August 2005.

In order to meet the response plan requirements, most members will need to contract with companies offering both Qualified Individual (QI) and spill management team (SMT) services, as well as a classified Oil Spill Response Organization (OSRO).

To assist members in meeting these requirements, Skuld has standing agreements with the Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC) and National Response Corporation (NRC) to provide OSRO services for nontank vessels entered with Skuld. Members may enroll their vessels with these organizations and identify them in their response plans without paying an annual retainer fee. Information regarding OSRO services and geographic coverage is available from Mike Reese at NRC,, Tel. (631) 224-9141 (Ext. 140) or Judith Norell at MSRC, Tel. (703) 326-5617.

Skuld also has a standing agreement with O’Brien’s Oil Pollution Services (OOPS) which will allow members to enroll with OOPS for the initial preparation and filing of the response plans free of charge. Under this arrangement, OOPS will also offer QI and SMT services at no cost to Skuld members for the year 2005. Discounted rates for certain salvage organizations are also available through OOPS. Members who wish to enroll with OOPS for these services should contact OOPS at Specific questions concerning plan preparation may be directed to Capt. Sanjiv Beri at OOPS, Tel. +1 609-275-9600; Fax +1 609-275-9444.

In the event of a spill, the fees and expenses of OOPS and MSRC or NRC will be treated as a claim under Skuld’s Rules for Pollution Cover, but members will be responsible for payment of non-spill services, such as drills and exercises.

The new regulations also require owners and operators of nontank vessels to contract with an organization providing salvage, fire-fighting and lightering services.

The following companies are offering these services for purposes of compliance with the nontank vessel response plan requirements:

(1) Marine Response Alliance (MRA)
Tel: +1-206-332-8076; Fax: +1-206-332-8376

(2) Resolve Marine Group
Tel: +1-954-764-8700 
Fax: +1-954-764-8724

(3) Donjon/SMT
Tel: +1-908-353-2600 
Fax: +1-908-353-2710 / +1-908-964-7426

(4) T & T Bisso, LLC
Tel: +1-409-744-1222 or +1-504-866-6341

Members must make their own arrangements for these services.

These organizations have different retainer requirements, fee structures and contractual terms, and it is not clear whether the contracts will meet Coast Guard requirements in every case. The U.S. Coast Guard is expected to issue additional guidance in the near future regarding the form of salvage contract necessary to meet the response plan requirements. Further website notices will be provided to members as this information becomes available. Members should verify that the form of any salvage contract offered by these organizations conforms to International Group Guidelines.

Members who wish further guidance on the nontank vessel response plans should contact the Association.