The Coast Guard And Offshore Wind: The Traffic Cop On The Outer Continental Shelf

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With respect to offshore wind, the role of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is much more than coming to the rescue of sinking ships, as depicted in movies like The Perfect Storm. Like all good safety professionals, the USCG relies on good planning and preparation to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.

The Coast Guard plays a critical role in the planning of offshore wind farms – and for good reason: The USCG is one of the chief U.S. agencies with the responsibility for safety and security on the water.

The USCG’s role in offshore wind begins at the early planning stages, before the states and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) even decide on wind energy areas (WEAs) and leases.

Using advanced modeling and analysis, the Coast Guard has used research like the 2015 Atlantic Coast Port Access Route Study to define navigation corridors to and from U.S. ports, which take into account large commercial vessels such as tankers and ocean liners, as well as tugs, military ships, fishing trawlers and an assortment of smaller vessels. These navigation corridors determine where offshore wind turbines can and cannot be placed on the Outer Continental Shelf.

The Coast Guard participates in all of BOEM’s state renewable task forces that are responsible for presenting and defining offshore WEAs before they become lease areas that are put up for auction to developers.

The importance of USCG involvement is amplified as developers of offshore wind projects plan their surveys and construction operations – ensuring that operations take into account navigation, search and rescue, and port security considerations.

And when the offshore wind power stations are constructed and operating, the Coast Guard will maintain a safe, secure and efficient Marine Transport System and ensure that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has properly mapped every turbine on all navigational charts.

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