Proceedings Of The Marine

FALL 2014

Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.

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38 Proceedings Fall 2014 its tows or barge draft. Reduced tow size and draft come at the cost of a reduced cargo load, however, and that translates to higher costs for producers, shippers, and consumers. In a 40-mile portion of the Mississippi River around Thebes, Illinois, risks of a low river stage are exacerbated by a rocky bottom, covered by stony pinnacles and boulders. If a tow boat or barge were to strike the bottom or a rock, the dam- age could be signifcant. Due to the drought, the river stage around Thebes was predicted to be much lower than normal during the winter of 2012, so what normally passed under- neath the hull of a river barge might pass through the hull. Safeguarding Commerce To contend with this situation, the U.S. Coast Guard partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and industry to clear the channel near Thebes of pinnacles and boulders, regulate traffc, and ensure safe navigation. To help mariners safely navigate, the Coast Guard deployed four river buoy tenders, frequently moving river buoys to correspond with the extent of safe water. Those buoy tenders also supplemented the existing buoys with 125 additional ones to provide marking system redun- dancy. The combined efforts of all participants prevented a complete shutdown of river traffc near Thebes during the low water event. Such a shutdown would have affected an estimated $7 billion worth of cargo, 20,000 jobs, and $130 million in wages. 1 Instead, participants averted the worst case, and more than $5.5 billion in cargo made it through. 2 These efforts were an important part of the third strategic priority in the Coast Guard's Western Hemisphere Strategy: safeguarding commerce. The strategy cites three means to protect commerce: • protecting lives; • promoting a safe, secure, and resilient marine transpor- tation system; • preserving the marine environment. The Aging ATON Fleet The Coast Guard inland aids to navigation (ATON) feet plays an important yet unheralded role within the strategy by carrying out operations that support the marine trans- portation system and protect the environment. The inland ATON feet consists primarily of 35 cutters in three classes: • construction tenders (WLIC), • inland buoy tenders (WLI), • river buoy tenders (WLR). WLICs/WLIs/WLRs are responsible for the entire western rivers system, the Columbia River, the St. Marys River, the Inside Passage in Alaska, the Inter- coastal Waterway, and the majority of the fxed ATON structures along the entire southern border of the U.S. coast. The Coast Guard Offce of Visual Navigation estimates that 68.3 percent of the Coast Guard's 49,102 aids to navigation fall under the responsibility of a WLIC, WLI, or WLR cutter. This enormous area of responsibility also looms large in its signifcance for the national economy. For exam- ple, 565 million tons of goods were shipped on internal waterways in 2012. 3 Moreover, the Maritime Admin- istration of the U.S. Department of Transportation Crews work to remove the rocky obstructions during the low water operations near Thebes, Ill., in 2012. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District-MVS, photo by Romanda Walker.

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