Here are some ways you can help the Coast Guard do their job: Run safety drills. Keep your equipment maintained and your charts up to date. If you have small watercraft like canoes, kayaks or surfboards, write your name and phone number on them. A kayak blown off a dock and adrift offshore will prompt a call from a concerned mariner, and the US Coast Guard is required to treat every piece of flotsam and jetsam as if it were a life or death situation. Three times last month alone, USCG District 14 in Hawaii scrambled fast response craft and helicopter crews over unmanned kayaks and a surfboard, whose owners might have been sipping a cool drink shoreside while the Coasties in Hawaii were burning fuel and their budget looking for them.
Other things one can do to ease the burden on the local sector—and the taxpayer—include not dangling from bridges to interfere with marine traffic and, as a group of protesters has discovered, don’t breach security zones.
In July (between July 22 and July 30) the Coast Guard 13th District commander, working in conjunction with the Coast Guard Sector Columbia River captain of the port, established a temporary safety zone, and a separate “Voluntary First Amendment Area,” associated with the arrival of the drilling support vessel Fennica to Portland, Oregon.
The safety zone was necessary to keep the Columbia and Willamette River waterways safe for commercial and pleasure craft while still allowing those who feel strongly about the issue of arctic oil extraction to exercise their right to free speech. “Everyone’s safety is our top priority.” according to Captain David Berliner, deputy commander, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River.
The safety zone extended 500-yards in front of the vessel and 100 yards to the port, starboard and astern of the Fennica while the vessel was transiting, and a 100-yard safety zone was established around the vessel while moored, at anchor or in dry dock.
The Coast Guard warned that any disruption to safe navigation would be subject to civil penalties and/or criminal prosecution.
On July 30th, officers from Coast Guard Sector Columbia River arrested 13 protesters who violated the safety zone by dangling from ropes under the St. Johns Bridge Bridge in an attempt to prevent the Fennica from passing under it.
Elizabeth Mount, Benjamin Reynoso, Michael Luurtsema, Katharine Loncke, Mark Floegel, Caroline Hansley and Sharon Spencer were issued and will receive notices of violation for interfering with the safe operation of a vessel on July 30, in violation of the US Code.
The recommended penalty for each citation was $500, but the Coast Guard can seek a maximum civil penalty of $40,000 for each entry into the zone or day the individuals violated the zone. It has been suggested that Greenpeace pay the fines of these protesters, and match the amount in donations to the US Coast Guard Foundation, which provides immediate support and comfort to those families affected by the loss of a Coast Guard loved one in the line of duty.
“While the Coast Guard supports peaceful protest activity on domestic waters, the actions of these individuals violated federal law,” said Capt. Daniel Travers, captain of the port and commander, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “We are holding these individuals accountable because interfering with the safe operation of a vessel creates an extremely dangerous situation and puts all waterway users at risk”
It’s bad enough to have to spend budgets and risk lives to chase a kayak that has been blown off a dock- it’s a whole other thing to have to risk Coast Guard assets to pursue “kayaktivists” who endanger the lives first responders simply for the attention. We hope the Coast Guard will impose the harshest penalties possible, and we hope Greenpeace will follow through on the suggestion and match the penalty for the Coast Guard fund, given the dangerous situations Greenpeace imposes on the men and women of the US Coast Guard.
Chris can be reached at email@example.com