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Superintendent Statement: Large Vessels Close to the Coast in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Superintendent Statement
April 13th, 2021

Contact: Karen Grimmer, Resource Protection Coordinator (831) 236-6535
picture of container ship

Large vessels such as container ships and oil tankers have been sited close to the Monterey Bay coast over the past few weeks. NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to remind the vessels about advisable routes recommended by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Shipping companies are cooperating with the sanctuary’s request that large vessels move west of the recommended routes and well offshore while waiting for entry into San Francisco.

The coastline of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary supports a variety of protected habitats and endangered species, including sea otters and leatherback sea turtles. The IMO recommended routes were established in 2000 to enhance the safety and navigation of large vessels (over 300 gross tons) and oil tankers transiting through the sanctuary, as well as to protect sensitive marine environments.

During the past few weeks, up to 12 vessels have been waiting offshore along the San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey coastlines. Large container ships and some laden oil tankers have not been able to anchor in the Port of Oakland. This has resulted in vessels waiting along the coastline for an opening, stationing close to shore and areas of sensitive habitat. Labor shortages, COVID restrictions, and other complicating factors have contributed to this situation. A similar situation is occurring in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary will continue to work with the U.S. Coast Guard and shipping companies to encourage vessels to remain well offshore during this time.

USCG is issuing a Marine Safety Information Bulletin to all mariners.


Dawn Hayes, Acting Superintendent
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary