Public comment is being sought through June 3, 2015, on a Coast Guard port access route study aimed at reducing maritime casualties and increasing efficiency of commercial vessel traffic movement, as vessel traffic increases in Alaska.
Coast Guard officials in Juneau said Dec. 8 that they are seeking comments from as many different waterway users and groups as possible.
Based on comments received in 2010, the Coast Guard has developed a potential vessel routing system from Nunivak Pass north, including Nunivak Island, St. Lawrence Island, and north through the Bering Strait. The routing measures consist of a series of four nautical mile wide, two-way transit routes, coupled with precautionary areas of junction points.
The proposed routing measures are voluntary for all vessels and fishing is not prohibited within the two-way route. Vessels engaged in fishing that choose to operate within the route would be expected to operate in accordance with the navigation rules and not impede the passage of other vessels transiting via the shipping lane.
The Coast Guard is very interested in comments from the commercial fishing industry on this proposed route, as this industry is a major user of the waterway.
In development of the routing system, the Coast Guard has taken into account some known high density fishing areas. For example, the proposed route is well to the east of the 100 fathom curve in the Bering Sea and well to the west of the red king crab savings area in Bristol Bay.
Also considered were the habitat conservation areas along this shipping corridor and other environmentally or ecologically important areas.
The proposed route closely mirrors current traffic patterns for traffic between Unimak Pass and the Bering Strait. If Bering Strait commercial vessel traffic increases, the Coast Guard anticipates this proposed route will minimize disruptions to commercial fishing vessels because it is expected commercial cargo vessels will choose to follow published and charted shipping lanes, the Coast Guard said.