At last night’s meeting in Rhinecliff, there was a debate about why the pilots association and shipping industry have requested ten new anchorages on the Hudson River. Those speaking on behalf of the anchorages, including some Hudson River pilots, claimed that the request was all about safety, while others (like me) argued that the need for new anchorages was about transporting fracking oil.
There’s no need to debate this issue, however. In its letter requesting the anchorages and explaining why they’re necessary, the Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey points directly to the growth of the oil business.
Here’s how the Association begins the discussion section of its letter (italics added):
Within the last few years, traffic on the Hudson River has increased dramatically and the use of the Kingston Hub (Kingston, Port Ewen, and Big Rock) anchorages have proven to be highly valuable to the commercial marine industry and cited in the United States Coast Pilot 2 as an anchorage area.
Those worried about how the anchorages will facilitate barge traffic transporting crude oil have not invented this concern. The Maritime Association itself acknowledges that it’s all about the oil.
A related issue in the debate has to do with how long the barges are typically anchored. The industry claims that the barges typically anchor for only a few hours, just enough time to allow the pilots to get some rest or wait for the fog to clear. In their letter of support for the anchorages, the American Waterways Operators (AWO) writes the following:
Over the past few years, however, vessels were typically anchored not for a few hours but for days at a time, often on beautiful summer days when there was no discernible problem with the weather. It was also common to see one vessel depart from its anchorage off Rhinecliff only to have another take its place a few hours later.
The barges were not anchored for safety reasons like weather conditions. They were waiting for a spot in the Port of Albany, where they would take on another load of crude.
It should also be noted that what happens in the Hudson Valley could have repercussions across the country. The letter from the American Waterways Operators continues as follows:
The industry would like to frame the debate in terms of aesthetics versus safety, but that’s not what the argument against the anchorages is all about. The new anchorages are parking spaces intended to accommodate the increase in traffic that’s associated with the rise of the fracking industry and the removal of the ban on U.S. oil exports. If the Coast Guard approves these anchorages, it will not only endanger the Hudson River and its riverside communities, it will also set a precedent for the rest of the country as well.