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General Laws

Section 2. (a)(1) The commissioner shall negotiate an agreement with the United States Coast Guard, United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Massachusetts pilot commissioner for any relevant district or districts, appropriate port agencies, or appropriate organizations by January 1, 2006, for a vessel traffic service system to protect Buzzards Bay and other bays and harbors of the state where establishing a VTS system is recommended by the Coast Guard or is recommended by the commissioner and approved by the Coast Guard. The purpose of the VTS system and the corresponding vessel traffic monitoring and communications systems shall be to aid navigation by providing satellite tracking, radar, or other information regarding ship locations and traffic to prevent collisions and groundings.

(2) If the commissioner cannot negotiate an agreement on VTS systems pursuant to paragraph (1) by January 1, 2006 for Buzzards Bay, the commissioner shall, in consultation with the United States Coast Guard, United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Massachusetts pilot commissioner, develop a plan for implementing a VTS system pursuant to said paragraph (1).

(3) The VTS system may be operated by the United States Coast Guard or United States Army Corps of Engineers, or by an entity that will have direct communication with a Coast Guard officer who has captain-of-the-port enforcement authority, or an Army Corps officer. The plan shall be amended periodically to reflect any changes in Coast Guard or Army Corps recommendations or operations, and any changes in the agreements entered into as provided above. The VTS system shall, to the extent allowable given federal requirements, provide for the best achievable protection of Buzzards Bay and the commonwealth’s harbors and bays where any VTS system is implemented.

(b) The VTS system shall be advisory in nature. Nothing in this chapter relieves, or is intended to relieve, any vessel, its owners, agents, charterers or operators, of other responsibilities they would otherwise have with respect to the navigation and operation of any vessel.

(c) No owner or operator of a vessel subject to the requirements of this chapter, nor any passenger on any such vessel or owner of cargo transported on any covered vessel, shall assert a claim against a VTS monitor or an officer, director, employee or representative of a VTS monitor for any damage, loss or expense, including any rights of indemnity, sustained by the vessel or its owners, agents, charterers, operators, crew or third parties arising out of, or connected with, directly or indirectly, the VTS monitor’s operation of the VTS system. Nothing in the section shall affect the liability or rights that may arise by reason of the gross negligence or intentional or willful misconduct of the VTS monitor or an officer, director, employee or representative of the VTS monitor in the operation of the VTS system.

(d) Prior to entering a VTS area, a covered vessel shall report to the VTS monitor the vessel’s name, call sign, location, course, speed, destination, estimated time of arrival and any impairment to the operation or navigation of the vessel. While transiting a VTS area, a covered vessel shall do all of the following:

(1) maintain continuous radio monitoring or communication with the VTS monitor on the radio channel dedicated to the VTS system;

(2) respond promptly when hailed by the VTS monitor; and

(3) comply with all VTS measures established by the commissioner and the VTS monitor so long as those measures are consistent with federal and state laws.

(e) The commissioner shall implement the VTS systems and VTS monitors to the extent funds are appropriated for this purpose and a fee system is enacted, to the extent such systems and monitors are not funded by other entities, including the United States Army Corps of Engineers or the United States Coast Guard. In order to provide funding for VTS systems and vessel monitoring and communications systems, the commissioner may establish a fee system that reflects the commercial maritime activity of each of the respective bays or other areas for which a VTS system is established. The money collected pursuant to this subsection shall be deposited in the Vessel Safety Account, which shall be in the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Fund, established by section 8. The money in the Vessel Safety Account shall be continuously appropriated for the sole purpose of funding VTS systems and vessel monitoring and communications systems.

(f) The commissioner shall adopt regulations to implement this section. Where a VTS system has been implemented, the commissioner may adopt regulations prohibiting covered vessels from: (i) accepting or unloading oil at marine terminals; (ii) entering a harbor or bay; and (iii) transiting Buzzards bay, if such barge or tank vessel is not in compliance with required VTS system or corresponding vessel traffic monitoring and communications systems equipment requirements.

(g) Upon certification by the commissioner that the United States Coast Guard or the United States Army Corps of Engineers has commenced operation of a vessel traffic service system for a commonwealth waterway, the authorization contained in this section to operate a vessel traffic service system in that waterway shall be revoked.

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