The Coulombi Egg Oil Tanker - United States Congress
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The Coulombi Egg tanker has been discussed at the US Congress. But it was quite superficial, unfortunately - superficial like the invention of probability of zero outflow as the only criteria of good oil tanker design.


THURSDAY, JUNE 25, 1998 - U.S. House of Representatives,

Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Washington, DC.

The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:12 p.m., in Room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Wayne T. Gilchrest (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.

(extracts from the protocol) …

(Heiwa Co comment - it shall be noted that the discussions starts with oil pollution protection).

Mr. GILCHREST. Is there a reason-now, this is a controversial question, I'll preface that, and it has to do with double hulls. And I know-it's my understanding that IMO is using the performance-based design guidance for oil pollution standards. Now is it the U.S.'s position not to use performance-based design guidance for oil pollution protection, but rather to hold to the standard of double hulls and is that an interpretation based on the intent of Congress, or why is that the interpretation?

Admiral NORTH (USCG). We hold to a performance-based standard as well, but the performance is different, if you want to compare performance. Our performance standard is the probability is zero outflow. The IMO performance standard gives nearly as much credit as the probability of median outflow as zero outflow; in other words, some outflow of oil, some mean between zero and maximum. We hold to a zero outflow performance standard and the basis of that is an interpretation; I would say in a sense that if you go back to the preamble the Clean Water Act, it says something to the effect that like Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that there shall be no discharge of oil or hazardous substances into or upon navigable waters of the United States. We use that basically as a declaration that zero discharge is the standard, or the performance standard, and the double-hull, at this point, has the highest likelihood of a zero discharge.

Mr. GILCHREST. In all circumstances?

Admiral NORTH. In the circumstances that we have experienced most here in the United States in terms of large vessel spills over the years.

(Heiwa Co comment - like the Exxon Valdez grounding!?).

Mr. GILCHREST. Is there any other alternative technologies out there that IMO has looked into?

Admiral NORTH. IMO currently accepts double hull, mid-deck, and so-called Coulombi Egg designs, but again, they give more credit, so to speak, to median outflow and don't hold their performance standard to a pure zero outflow criteria like we do.

(Heiwa Co note - so-called? - alternative designs must have 3-4 times less median outflows and must outperform double hull in collisions to get approved).

Mr. GILCHREST. How do they know that those are possible alternatives? Have some other countries looked into the engineering designs of those things?

Admiral NORTH. Yes, and there were studies from IMO to look at alternative designs.

Mr. GILCHREST. Do you think that there will ever come a time when we might find some alternative technology that will prove at least as good or safer (sic) than double hulls?

(Heiwa Co note - here Mr. Gilchrest introduces safety - it is something totally different from oil pollution protection).

Admiral NORTH. The Coast Guard would be happy to look at any design that claims to provide the same kind of zero outflow performance that we see double-hulls providing.

Mr. GILCHREST. Is the Coast Guard looking at any of those now?

Admiral NORTH. There is nothing presently that we have found that matches the double-hull for the probability of zero outflow. We have looked at a number of designs; we did a report to Congress, currently in clearance that talks about some of those. There have been other designs brought up that were not considered in that report and we have yet to find one that matches the double-hull from that perspective in terms of probability of zero outflow. But we're open to any designs that might be submitted for that purpose.

(Heiwa Co comment - the USCG has never contacted Heiwa Co to obtain any info about its Coulombi Egg design).

Mr. GILCHREST. So it would be a positive thing to pursue-so, basically, zero discharge (sic) is a U.S. position, but not an IMO position?

Admiral NORTH. That's correct.

(Heiwa Co comment - yes 100% correct. The USCG is alone in the world to pursue its invention. 140+ IMO members do not support the USCG).

Mr. GILCHREST. And it's your strong belief or beliefs that a zero discharge under the myriad of circumstances that oil can, oil tankers can be confronted with problems, that particular concept is the best that we can do right now.

Admiral NORTH. For zero outflow, the double-hull is the best we have seen, to date.

(Heiwa Co comment - it does not hold true for collisions - and the IMO knows it!).

Mr. GILCHREST. You can't do much better than zero outflow, but if you stick to a zero outflow concept and then everything is designed to that extent, there are certain circumstances, would you agree, that even with double-hulls, you could have a ship bump into an iceberg or something and you'd have a huge outflow of oil, whether or not you had double-hulls?

(Heiwa Co comment - and why not in an explosion? The risks of leaks into void spaces and explosions are much, 10 times, higher for double hull than Coulombi Egg - but it was never considered).

Admiral NORTH. Sure.

Mr. GILCHREST. And I guess if you had double-hulls with another technology-but--

Admiral NORTH. Well, to answer what you are driving at: nothing. There's no design that will prevent or create zero outflow under all circumstances. The double-hull has the highest probability of zero outflow given the kinds of accidents we've experienced here in the United States (sic). That doesn't mean that you can never have a spill from a double-hull, but I would add that since OPA 90, double-hulls in the United States that have gone aground, have had a collision, or have otherwise been damaged, have not spilled any oil.

(Heiwa Co note - in collisions the alternative designs (relying on hydrostatic loading as grounding protection) have higher probability of zero outflow and spill also much less oil than double hull).

Mr. GILCHREST. So, Admiral, you recommendation to Congress today would be to continue the concept of double hulls--

Admiral NORTH. Based on the other designs that have been submitted, yes.

(Heiwa Co comment - but what happened to the safety aspects?).

Mr. GILCHREST. I see. Thank you. Mr. Johnson? It's a big subject.

Mr. JOHNSON OF WISCONSIN. I have no more questions.

Mr. GILCHREST. All right, Admiral and Mr. Angelo, we appreciate your coming here this afternoon. I have a number of other questions, but I think we can walk them over to Coast Guard Headquarters and discuss them over lunch sometime …

Mr. GILCHREST. ... And I do think it's important to maintain an open line of informed communication between ourselves and our delegation that serves us so well at the IMO.

Speaking of double hulls, we'll close on a relatively positive note. Mr. Somerville, I guess I'm just going to ask your opinion on IMO's position, their international oil spill protocols, which are performance-based designs, to the U.S. position right now. Could you, you know, comment on is this stalemate? The U.S. position, I suppose, is prevailing because we're the biggest importer of goods and most of the ships comes here; is it a good position, from your perspective, to be in? I know there's a myriad of ramifications to changing that.

Mr. SOMERVILLE (ABS). Mr. Chairman, you've put me in a very delicate position. You have to realize that ABS represents some 90 governments around the world and we're accepted--

(Heiwa Co note - there is nothing to forbid the ABS to class and certify a Coulombi Egg tanker. A Coulombi Egg tanker can sail anywhere - except to the USA continental ports - and it spills much less oil than double hull in all accidents - and is safer).

Mr. GILCHREST. Let's just say, Mr. Somerville, we are in a college classroom and we want to know the purest academic response that you could muster.

Mr. SOMERVILLE. The purest academic response would be to be pure. And the only way I can do that is as I'm walking down a beach I would want to have zero spillage from a tanker. So, from that point of view, I would have to support what the United States has done. From the other point, from the other 89 governments, we have looked at the design, we've looked at the IMO design, and, from a technical, from a purely technical aspect, those designs are satisfactory, based on the probabilistic requirements that they have. But if you allow zero tolerance (sic), the only way you can go is a double hull.

Mr. GILCHREST. So based on the model that IMO uses, these alternative designs are acceptable. But based on the model of zero outflow--

(Heiwa Co comment - the model of zero outflow states that when a double hull tanker rips open its outer bottom in grounding without damaging the inner bottom, then there is zero outflow. The same model states that when a Coulombi Egg tanker rips open its outer bottom in grounding and when there is no oil spill, then the probability of zero outflow is still zero).

Mr. SOMERVILLE. They would not be acceptable.

Mr. GILCHREST. Is there some middle road here where double hulls would absolutely be the best? When I say middle road, certain places on the planet where double hulls would absolutely be the best and other places on the planet where maybe a combination or some alternative design might be more suitable. I'm making reference to certain areas of the planet where you might have a catastrophic oil spill where the double hulls are not going to protect you where another design might lessen the outflow.

Mr. SOMERVILLE. I don't think so.

(Heiwa Co comment - but please Mr. Somerville - in an accident, when double hulls provide no protection, the Coulombi Egg tanker spills virtually nothing! - The Coulombi Egg tanker is designed with that objective and it is proven by the IMO performance standard).

Again, you heard reference earlier to the 80 percent rule that 80 percent of the casualties that happen today are human error.


Mr. SOMERVILLE. And human error-actually, I think it's higher; I think it's closer to 90 percent.

Mr. GILCHREST. But if you injected a geographic location with the potential for human error, that doesn't change the scenario?

Mr. SOMERVILLE. No. No, it doesn't.

Mr. GILCHREST. I see. Mr. Cox.

Mr. COX. Thank you, I'm not encumbered by representing 90 different governments, so I think I can give an answer and I'll base my answer--

Mr. GILCHREST. I think Mr. Somerville's answer was pretty pure as far as an academic perspective was concerned.

Mr. COX. Yes, it was. Yes, I think he gets an ''A'' for that.

Mr. SOMERVILLE. That was with your help, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. COX. Okay. It must be some teaching history up here at the podium. But, Mr. Chairman, I think that if I were standing on the beach and the probability was that there was going to be an incident out there of low energy, a double hull is going to protect you against that. But if you are a little bit further out and it's going to be a high-energy issue, a double hull is not going to protect you against a spill. And, in fact, in that scenario you might have another design that somebody could come up with. It's simply a matter of looking at the geography of this Nation and the preponderance of what types of incidents take place and are we going to protect against that predominant incident with the expectation that there can be a catastrophic incident which does have oil ending up on our shores.

And I think that the unfortunate thing is that we've educated the public to think that a double hull is going to protect them against that high-energy collision out there, or high-energy collision which results in oil on the beach. And I think right now if that should happen, and hopefully it won't, we're going to have to answer to the education that we've provided to the American public which seemed to say now you are going to be free of oil spills. That's simply not the case. We're going to prevent the majority of them that may have taken place; we are not going to prevent them in total.

Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you very much, Mr. Cox.

Gentlemen, we applaud your patience as well as your character. And the information you've provided us with today has been extremely helpful and we look forward to seeing you again. Thank you all very much. The hearing is adjourned.

[Whereupon at 4:30 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned subject to the call of the Chair.]

However, later the Congress adopted the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1998, which mandated the Secretary of Transportation to commission the Marine Board of the National Research Council's (NRC) Transportation Research Board (TRB) to develop a rationally based approach and method for assessing the environmental performance of alternative tanker designs relative to the double-hull standard - with no regard to the probability of zero outflow invention.

But still, 2013!!, the USCG has not managed to assess the Coulombi Egg tanker. Sooner or later it will of course be done - but must we wait until a double hull tanker spills large amounts of oil in US waters?