Marine Approaches to U.S. Ports:

A Flexible and Obstruction-Free System Is Needed

CED-78-107: Published: May 2, 1978. Publicly Released: May 2, 1978.

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The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is a major area of potential oil and gas resources. Some OCS areas which are leased and being explored for these resources or are scheduled to be leased are located in the path of shipping routes traditionally followed by maritime interests.

OCS development has created a controversy between energy and maritime interests--the need for ensuring unencumbered exploitation of seabed resources versus safety at sea. Both agree that there should be obstruction-free shipping routes, but energy interests want the routes established after a reasonable amount of exploration for the delineation of the location and extent of resources, and maritime interests want the routes established before exploration. There is also disagreement between the Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard--the Corps believes that routes should be established before exploratory drilling. In order to resolve these controversies, the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) recommended assessing potential interference with marine traffic, establishing obstruction-free shipping routes through offshore exploration areas at all stages of exploitation, and relocating or adjusting these routes to accommodate exploration. These recommendations are sound but, in order to carry them out, the jurisdictional problem between the Corps and the Coast Guard must be resolved.

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