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New Rules
Impact Transit

New Rules Impact Transit Near the Aleutians

StormGeo Shipping Insights, July 2014
By George Schlinkert, VP of Route Advisory Services

In the upcoming heavy weather seasons, it will be increasingly vital that ship operators ensure that their ships are registered with The Alaska Maritime Prevention & Response Network (AMPRN). This is due to the fact that the U.S. Coast Guard is implementing rules regarding transit in the vicinity of the Aleutians.

While it is beyond the scope of the Shipping Insights newsletter to expound on these rules, more information can be found online here.

No one wants to receive the following message from a ship captain about a ship deviating to comply with the regulations.

Please be advised that M.V. xxxx deviated her Route plan:
At 0900LT/18th(2100UTC/17th)= A/C to 220 deg(T)
(in Posn. 49-56N, 179-37W)
RL to 48-10N, 177-50E
GC direct to Erimo Saki
Reason of Deviation: This is to fast clear the USCG COTP
Regulated Waters of Western Alaska.

This sort of message has been received with increasing frequency.

During the summer months, the deviation may add some mileage to a voyage, but only minimal time. However, if this occurs during the winter months, the results can be economically catastrophic.

The following image depicts the Aleutian Low, which is a climatological area of minimum pressure, generally centered in the vicinity of the Aleutians.

aleutian low

IP-MobileCast and FORECASTlink
While the averaged weather pattern looks rather benign, the most severe storms will prevail in the vicinity of the Aleutian Low and individual storms may look more like this:

bering sea

In this example, the vessel was sailing into the Bering Sea, in following winds. Along a route passing 200NM south of the Aleutians, the vessel would be sailing into 10 meter head waves and the ship's speed and course would need to be adjusted for best handling and safe navigation. Sailing south of the Aleutian Islands could also expose the vessel to a series of storms which would likely follow such a path.

While StormGeo Shipping works with ship captains to avoid this area, especially for westbound voyages, when ships encounter such heavy head winds, the general reaction by the ship master is to go south, which then further exposes ships to more and more storms.

StormGeo urges ship operators to be aware of the potential of heavy losses and potential safety issues if ships lose the option of transiting via the Bering Sea owing to lacking the required registration for transit through the region.

Of course weather patterns vary significantly, and heavy adverse weather conditions through the Bering Sea are often quite possible. However, 200NM to the south of the islands can expose a ship to the worst of the possible conditions and it's vital to ensure that the proper forms are completed for transiting the region north of the Aleutians.