October 14, 2021

IT’S COME TO THIS: Rep. Michelle Steel calls for ban on ships anchoring off Orange County.

Under pressure to react to the recent oil spill off her House district’s shore line, Rep. Michelle Steel on Tuesday proposed a temporary ban on ships idling along the coast, citing initial reports that an anchor may have dislodged the failed pipeline.

“This crisis could have been prevented and it’s important that we protect our waters and coastline,” said Steel, R-Seal Beach, whose 48th District includes much of coastal Orange County.

Maritime experts say Steel’s proposal could lead to increased costs and delays for shipping companies, more air pollution and a greater risk of offshore accidents.

Steel’s Stopping Hazardous Incidents in the Pacific Act of 2021, or SHIP Act, would ban cargo idling or anchoring within 24 nautical miles from the Orange County coast. The ban would take effect immediately and last “up to 180 days,” or until President Joe Biden declares an end to a port backlog that’s stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic and caused a spike in ships waiting offshore.

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Stewart, with Steel’s office, said the ban on idling ships is an “immediate response to a problem that is happening in real time.” She said more pipelines could be damaged as ships remain stuck off the coast.

After a dramatic drop in cargo coming into the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach at the start of the pandemic, a report from the Pacific Maritime Association noted an unprecedented spike in volume in April 2020. Such swings have continued for months, with the Port of Los Angeles setting a new record for volume in June.

Combine that surging but uneven demand with what the Pacific Maritime Association identified as “equipment shortages, capacity limits and logistical choke points throughout the entire supply chain.” And it’s all led to a massive backup of container ships waiting off Southern California shores to unload their cargo, which is causing supply chain issues throughout the country.

As the Atlantic noted, “America is Running Out of Everything.” And banning ships doesn’t sound like the best way to improve that.

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