Security zone warning issued to Valdez boaters
Coast Guard says it will ticket and fine vessels
The US Coast Guard is spreading the word that all boaters – recreational and commercial - must stay out of the security zone surrounding the Valdez Marine Terminal in Port Valdez.
This includes a 200-foot security zone around all oil tankers, the shore perimeter of the Valdez Marine Terminal (VMT) and the Valdez Narrows when tankers are moving through its waters.
Fines for breaching the zone can cost hundreds of dollars for first offences committed by recreational boaters, and shoots up into the thousands for violations committed by commercials vessels.
The fines have been likened to tickets issued for driving infractions, only on a grander scale that involves the federal government. And fighting these tickets issued by the Coast Guard requires months of red tape.
Following the rules regarding where you are allowed to boat in the port is easy.
The 1.7 mile-wide security zone around the VMT is marked with two buoys.
All mariners must stay at least 200 feet away from oil tankers.
There is a third security zone in the narrows, which takes 200 yards in either direction of tanker lanes, but is only enforced when oil tankers are using it. Otherwise, many large vessels that use the port, like the ferry, could not enter the Narrows at all,
To help the boating public understand where the restricted areas are, the Coast Guard has blanketed the town with a large number of free pamphlets, complete with a map, in areas likely to host boaters, including the harbor master's office on the small boat harbor.
This map - which is available in several locations around Valdez, including the harbor master's office – shows the security zones in Port Valdez.
Fines increase incrementally for repeat offenders.
So what can you do if you find yourself in possession of a whopping ticket from the Coast Guard?
Individual can decline or contest the fine, which then turns it into a civil penalty case. Those that contest the ticket must submit their evidence of innocence to the Coast Guard hearing officer, usually by mail.
The officer looks at the evidence provided by the Coast Guard and the accused violator and renders a judgment.
Even if you win, you are still going to have a bad day. When out on the water, the Coast Guard recommends all boaters just avoid the security zone, stay away from oil tankers and avoid fines altogether.