Areas to be avoided Aleutian Islands

Guidelines from NRC:

From 2014 - no longer just proposed, ATBA is in effect.

That’ll really hit the tourism/bulker market


What is the reason for this?

I figure he was trying to stay in the Lee his whole voyage, as much as he could…

After the grounding of the Selendang Ayu in 2004 various groups began to demand more regulations from the USCG re: routing ships through the Aleutians. This reg, which went into force in 2014, is the result. I’ll write more about it once my blood pressure drops. It has led to a financial boondoggle…

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The ATBA (Areas To Be Avoided) are a consequence of the Seladang Ayu grounding in 2004. The resulting 354,000 gallon diesel oil spill was the worst spill disaster to hit Alaska waters since the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.

One of the first questions to be asked by Alaskan government officials after the grounding was, What was the Seladang Ayu doing so close to land in the first place? Research studies were made, and the ATBA were the result. They are codified by the IMO. Vessels are supposed to stay out of them.

The problem is, what do vessels that normally call at Aleutian ports do? Our vessels do, and they also routinely make use of the island lees, etc., to avoid bad weather, and anchor in a whole bunch of uninhabited harbors to wait out storms. Trying to comply with the regs would put us in more danger than otherwise, and coincidentally put us out of business.

So for our operation,and a lot of other operations, there is the concept of “alternative compliance”. Which is the grayest of gray areas, because it’s hard to pin down. But basically it comes down to this: if you hire a company to monitor the whereabouts of your boats (American vessels) 24/7, you can go where you want. (Still have to follow pilotage rules, etc.). By monitor, I mean a guy of unknown credentials watches your vessel movements in an office in Anchorage by satellite. AIS info, nothing more.

In the years since we used a particular company for this service, the only time this company contacted us is when an observer noticed one of our boats had stopped over Albatross Bank in the Gulf of Alaska, I got a call from the observer at four in the morning. “Your boat is dead in the water! What are you going to do? I’m going to call the Coast Guard!” I asked him the location. Albatross Bank, in early summer? Sport halibut fishing by the crew. Which was the case.

I can have 60 years of Aleutian piloting experience represented in the wheelhouse. What is a guy with no Aleutian experience, looking at a pip on a screen 500 miles away, going to do to help avert a grounding? And we have to pay an annual fee for this service. But that’s the way the game is played…


It probably would have been better if the smaller coast-wise vessels had been left out or perhaps only applied to vessels carrying oil cargo.

I had the same thought when I first encountered the regs but in my case with our speed and the high quality weather forecasts/routing on the GC route we can just pick which track to use in advance. At least that was the case so far.

In your case I see the objection but with deep-sea ships on the GC route the principle is sound. Monitoring the AIS provides a cross-check on the navigation of the ship. It’s analogous to the third mate watching the ECDIS while the pilot is aboard.

Yep, that’s always the problem with the USCG or other authorities try to make navigation rules for the Aleutians. They lump together very large trans-pacific shipping which is just passing through, with our smaller vessels, which can get an email saying, Hey can you pull over right now to Jap Bay to pick up a 100 tons of cod?

To their credit though the USCG always gives ample warning of possible rulemaking and an opportunity to argue with them.

like slick cam one the Jasmine was probably trying to keep from bending the ship, I can think of no other reason but having sailed for years around ALL of those islands I should think a longer course in open ocean would be a better idea even if it used 4x the fuel !!
I can also say the “Lee” of some of those islands isn’t all that great … try the sheilikoff straits in fall/spring!

As you know, local knowledge is everything in that neck of the woods. Back in the old days, when I left False Pass bound for Akutan or Dutch in winter, I would hug Unimak Bight at two cables, in the lee of the island, while the traffic in Unimak Pass a few miles away would be rolling all night, maybe making ice. Just those few hours of comparative calm made staring at the sounder worth it. :slightly_smiling_face:

well, … making ice kinda changes things… i’ve done time out there busting ice

as i was saying b4 this pos thot for me… ice changes things and i guess when ice is building i prefer to see something with snow on it down wind of me !!! it just don’t matter the ships size… small enough and a energetic crew may keep up with it… a big ship and they can’t … kinda like being in a airplane, … and i’d still prefer being aboard ship.