The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Security zone warning issued to Valdez boaters

Coast Guard says it will ticket and fine vessels that violate the law


Valdez Star file photo

Buoys at either end of the security zone around the Valdez Marine Terminal alerts boaters to stay out of the area. Sea lions are exempt.

The US Coast Guard is spreading the word that all boaters must stay out of the security zone surrounding the Valdez Marine Terminal in Port Valdez.

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. And fighting these tickets, which are issued by the Coast Guard, requires months of red tape involving the federal government.

The 1.7 mile-wide security zone is marked with two buoys.

There are actually three federal security zones in Port Valdez. It is illegal to sail within 200 yards of any oil tanker that is in port, even when moving. There is a third security zone in the Narrows, which takes 200 yards in either direction of tanker lanes, but is only enforced when 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.

"Most people that incur into the zone aren't local," the Coast Guard said in past interviews. "They don't always go out with charts."

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 in Arlington, Virginia, 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.


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