Coast Guard warns Y2K may jeopardize flow of oil to U.S.

The United States’ oil supply could be in jeopardy if the international maritime
transportation industry does not get a handle on year 2000 problems, the Coast
Guard’s chief information officer has warned.


More than 7,700 foreign ships carrying cargo such as crude oil make about 80,000 visits
to U.S. ports annually. More than 50 percent of the oil consumed in this country comes
from foreign sources through U.S. ports.


The Coast Guard is worried that many of these highly automated vessels are not year
2000-ready.


The flow of imported oil would be disrupted by the year 2000 problem if tankers were
unable to make the ocean voyage or if shipboard oil pumps and storage containers ashore
were unable to provide accurate readings or prevent oil leaks.


“We don’t have much control over those vessels which are extremely dependent
on technology,” said Rear Adm. George Naccara, the Coast Guard’s CIO, at a
recent conference.


Even a short-term halt in oil imports would have devastating results, Naccara said,
especially during winter.


Ship automation has reached the point where integrated bridge, engineering, propulsion
and navigation systems have reduced crew sizes, Naccara said.


But the year 2000 problem affects more than ships, Naccara said.


Pierside cranes that load and unload containers from cargo ships, for instance, have as
many as 150 embedded computer chips each, he said. In a response to a recent survey,
marine manufacturers reported that 20 percent of the embedded chips they had tested were
not 2000-ready.


The Coast Guard—with 190 aircraft, 225 cutter ships, thousands of small boats and
15,000 facilities nationwide—has its own year 2000 problems, too, Naccara said.


The Coast Guard meets every month with John Koskinen, the Clinton administration’s
year 2000 czar, to update the White House on the agency’s progress and compliance
with federal regulations, Naccara said. The marine transportation industry’s year
2000 problem is one of Koskinen’s top priorities, Naccara said.


The Coast Guard also has created a year 2000 site for mariners at www.uscg.mil/hq/g-m/y2k.htm.


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