[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 101 (Tuesday, May 27, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 30061-30062]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-11931]

[[Page 30061]]



Coast Guard

46 CFR Part 45

[Docket No. USCG-2013-0954]

Special Load Line Exemption for Lake Michigan: Petition for 

AGENCY: Coast Guard, DHS.

ACTION: Requests for comments on petitions for rulemaking.


SUMMARY: The Coast Guard announces the availability of several requests 
for a rulemaking, and requests public comment accordingly. The 
requesters are petitioning the Coast Guard to establish a special load 
line-exempted route on Lake Michigan. This exemption would allow non-
load line river barges to transit along the eastern shore of Lake 
Michigan, between Chicago (Calumet Harbor), IL, and Muskegon, MI. This 
is similar to an existing exempted route along the western shore 
between Calumet and Milwaukee, WI.

DATES: Comments and related material must either be submitted to our 
online docket via http://www.regulations.gov on or before August 25, 
2014, or reach the Docket Management Facility by that date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments identified by docket number USCG-
2013-0954 using any one of the following methods:
    (1) Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
    (2) Fax: 202-493-2251.
    (3) Mail: Docket Management Facility (M-30), U.S. Department of 
Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New 
Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001.
    (4) Hand Delivery: Same as mail address above, between 9 a.m. and 5 
p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The telephone 
number is 202-366-9329.
    To avoid duplication, please use only one of these four methods. 
See the ``Public Participation and Request for Comments'' portion of 
the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below for instructions on 
submitting comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: If you have questions on this 
document, contact Mr. Thomas Jordan, Naval Architecture Division (CG-
ENG-2), U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, at telephone 202-372-1370, or by 
email at [email protected]. If you have questions on viewing or 
submitting material to the docket, call Cheryl F. Collins, Program 
Manager, Docket Operations, telephone 202-366-9826.


Public Participation and Request for Comments

    We encourage you to submit comments and related material on the 
rulemaking petition for a special load line exemption on Lake Michigan. 
All comments received will be posted, without change, to http://www.regulations.gov and will include any personal information you have 
    Submitting comments: If you submit a comment, please include the 
docket number for this document (USCG-2013-0954) and provide a reason 
for each suggestion or recommendation. You may submit your comments and 
material online, or by fax, mail or hand delivery, but please use only 
one of these means. We recommend that you include your name and a 
mailing address, an email address, or a telephone number in the body of 
your document so that we can contact you if we have questions regarding 
your submission.
    To submit your comment online, go to http://www.regulations.gov, 
search for ``USCG-2013-0954,'' click ``Open the docket folder'' and 
click the comment button. If you submit your comments by mail or hand 
delivery, submit them in an unbound format, no larger than 8 \1/2\ by 
11 inches, suitable for copying and electronic filing. If you submit 
them by mail and would like to know that they reached the Facility, 
please enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard or envelope. We will 
consider all comments and material received during the comment period.
    Viewing the rulemaking petition and comments: To view the petition 
and comments that have been submitted to the docket, go to http://www.regulations.gov, search for ``USCG-2013-0954'' and click ``Open 
Docket Folder.'' If you do not have access to the internet, you may 
view the docket online by visiting the Docket Management Facility in 
Room W12-140 on the ground floor of the Department of Transportation 
West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, 
between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal 
holidays. We have an agreement with the Department of Transportation to 
use the Docket Management Facility.
    Privacy Act: Anyone can search the electronic form of comments 
received into any of our dockets by the name of the individual 
submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if submitted on behalf 
of an association, business, labor union, etc.). You may review a 
Privacy Act, system of records notice regarding our public dockets in 
the January 17, 2008, issue of the Federal Register (73 FR 3316).

Background and Purpose

    The requesters are petitioning the Coast Guard to establish a 
special load line-exempted route along the eastern shore of Lake 
Michigan, which would allow non-load line river barges to transit 
between Chicago (Calumet Harbor), IL, and Muskegon, MI. This action 
pertains to current load line regulations, and the use of non-load line 
river barges on Lake Michigan (particularly on the Milwaukee and Burns 
Harbor routes; these are discussed further below).
    Load line assignment. Most commercial vessels that are 79 feet in 
length or longer, and that proceed on domestic or international voyages 
outside the U.S. Boundary Line (including voyages on the Great Lakes) 
must be assigned a load line. The purpose of load line assignment is to 
ensure the overall seaworthiness of the vessel. This is accomplished 
through the application of several design and construction 
requirements, such as: Robust hull construction that can withstand 
severe sea conditions; protection of critical openings (such as 
hatchways, doors, ventilators, etc.) with weathertight or watertight 
closures; ensuring that the vessel has adequate stability and strength 
for all operating conditions; and limiting the loaded draft (by use of 
load line marks) to ensure that the vessel is not overloaded and has 
reserve buoyancy.
    Furthermore, the vessel must be surveyed annually (by a surveyor 
from the load line assigning authority) to verify that all of these 
features are maintained in operable condition, and that no damage or 
modification has been done to the vessel that compromises its 
seaworthiness. The benefit in meeting these requirements is that the 
vessel is considered safe and seaworthy enough for offshore voyages, 
even under severe weather conditions. This gives the operator maximum 
flexibility in the commercial employment of the vessel. There are costs 
associated with load line assignment, however: Higher construction cost 
for the vessel, and the cost of the annual surveys.
    Because river barges are not exposed to any sea conditions, they 
are not typically constructed to meet the load line standards for 
coastwise, offshore, or Great Lakes service. Although this makes them 
less expensive to build and operate, they do not qualify for load line

[[Page 30062]]

assignment and therefore are not normally permitted to operate outside 
the Boundary Line.
    (More information on load lines and the Boundary Line can be found 
on the Coast Guard's load line Web site at: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg5212/loadlines.asp)
    Load line-exempted routes on Lake Michigan. At present, river 
barges can obtain a special load line that allows them to operate on 
Lake Michigan between Calumet and Muskegon, provided that they remain 
within 5 miles of the shoreline, transit only under favorable weather 
conditions, and only carry dry, non-hazardous cargoes. This load line 
is issued by the American Bureau of Shipping, who inspects (surveys) 
the vessel each year to ensure its continued seaworthiness.
    Although non-load line river barges are not normally permitted to 
operate on the Lake, there are two specific routes where they are so 
permitted under restricted conditions: Between Calumet and Burns 
Harbor, IL, and between Calumet and Milwaukee, MI. The voyages are 
subject to weather limitations and certain other loading restrictions. 
The premise for these exempted routes is that weather conditions on the 
Lake are often benign, that accurate and timely forecasts are readily 
available, and that ports of refuge are close at hand along the route. 
This allows the river barges to avoid bad weather and safely transit 
along the Lake shore. The specific restrictions for these exempted 
routes are found in 46 CFR 45.171, et seq.
    Petition for a special load line exemption. In order to promote 
barge transportation of certain agricultural products and cargoes, the 
petitioners have submitted to the Coast Guard a request to create a 
load line-exempted route along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. 
These requests can be viewed in the docket, but to summarize: The 
request would effectively extend the existing Burns Harbor exemption up 
the eastern shore of Lake Michigan to Muskegon, MI. The actual 
restrictions would be very similar to those for the Milwaukee route.
    The benefit of the exemption is that it would allow non-hazardous 
cargoes to be loaded onto ordinary, non-load line river barges at 
inland Mississippi River terminals for direct delivery to Muskegon and 
intermediate Lake ports, and for agricultural products to be similarly 
transported to downriver terminals.

Request for Comments

    In deciding whether or not to move forward with the requested 
rulemaking, the Coast Guard must consider several issues: The safety of 
the operation, protection of the marine environment, resource demands 
on the Coast Guard (particularly compliance verification and 
enforcement), and the potential economic costs and benefits.
    Public comments on these issues, as well as other points that are 
pertinent to this petition, are encouraged. Upon review, the Coast 
Guard will decide whether or not to proceed with a rulemaking to 
establish the proposed exempted route.
    This document is issued under authority of 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 46 
U.S.C. 5108.

    Dated: May 19, 2014.
F.J. Sturm,
Acting Director of Commercial Regulations and Standards.
[FR Doc. 2014-11931 Filed 5-23-14; 8:45 am]