The U.S. Coast Guard has established a temporary safety zone around the drill ship Stena Forth while it is undergoing repairs at anchor in Penobscot Bay near Rockland Harbor.

The nature of the repairs makes transiting within a 100-yard radius of the Stena Forth unsafe for all mariners, according to a June 11 announcement made by Lt. j.g. Laura van der Pol, chief of the Waterways Management Division of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Northern New England in Portland.

According to Spec. Matt Talbot of the Maine Marine Patrol, approximately a dozen fishermen in Rockport and Rockland had gear in the area.

“As far as I know all but one person has moved gear out,” Talbot said June 15.

“I first notified them around June 4,” he said. “That was the first time I had a hard date in place.” Talbot said the original start date for the work had since been moved back to the current anticipated date of Thursday, June 17.

Talbot said the safety zone would be north of the normal ferry path to North Haven and Vinalhaven and that no moorings, other than those belonging to Prock Marine, would be affected by the restrictions.

“The transit zone is a federal channel that goes between Prock’s shoreside facility,” he said. “There’s an anchorage that’s generally not too busy this time of year.”

“As far as the fishermen are concerned, there’s no good place to do it,” Talbot said.

Joe Bates of Rockland said he planned to move about 100 lobster traps on June 16.

“That’s just where the ship’s going to go,” he said. “That has nothing to do with the transit area.”

Bates said he’s made several efforts in the past week to get the work area moved farther offshore.

“I’ve been to Prock and I’ve been to the Coast Guard,” he said. “I talked to Marine Patrol and am waiting for a call back from Cianbro.”

He said representatives of federal and state law enforcement raised no objection to moving the Stena Forth work site a mile farther from the breakwater.

“Another mile and a half would make a big difference to everybody that uses [the area] out there,” Bates said.

He said losing even a week in the safety zone would cost him a great deal.

“It’s a huge part of our spring fishing here,” Bates said. “We don’t have a huge amount of spring fishing here in Rockland. These companies don’t realize. They’re here for this job and they’re out of here. We’re here year-round.”

Bates said he was notified of the safety zone a little over a week ago, via a posting at the buying station where he sells his lobsters.

“Not one fisherman had any input on where this ship was going to go,” he said. Bates said it would be difficult to relocate his traps, because other fishermen put their gear in the surrounding waters, and the designated area is over a prime resource.

“There aren’t a lot of places this time of year where you can find lobster in Rockland,” he said.

“It’s a little disheartening,” Bates said.

Lobsterman Steve Reynolds said the Maine Marine Patrol provided fishermen with a chart showing the area to be occupied by the Stena Forth. He said he moved 20 sets of two traps each.

“It’s a big ocean,” Reynolds said. “I’m kind of used to it. We get two Navy boats every year.” He recalled 1994, when Russian ships were in the area processing menhaden all summer long.

Reynolds said the Stena Forth would swing on its anchor, creating a 2,000-foot circle where traps and other gear would be at risk.

“I just go with the flow,” he said. “You can’t fight the Coast Guard or the Department of Marine Resources.”

Crews from Maine-based Cianbro Corporation are preparing for the job that will be visible to thousands of Mainers who look out to sea in the Rockland area, according to company spokesman Alan Grover.

On or about Thursday, June 17, the 750-foot drilling vessel Stena Forth will appear on the horizon, approximately a mile and a half off the Rockland Breakwater. The Cianbro team will work around the clock to remove and reinstall three of the drill ship’s six propulsion thrusters, according to the announcement.

Once the new thrusters are in place, the ship will perform sea trials in the vicinity of the Rockland anchorage before returning to the open ocean to continue offshore drilling.

The safety zone was to be in effect from June 15 through Monday, July 5, the Coast Guard announcement said.

According to the Coast Guard, the affected waters will comprise all those within a 100-yard radius of the Stena Forth while at anchor in Penobscot Bay in the approximate position: 44º06’54″N, 069º02’54″W, one mile northeast of the Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light (LLNR 4130), and approximately one and a half miles north of Owls Head.

The Coast Guard has requested that all fishermen who may currently have gear in the designated area remove it prior to the Stena Forth‘s arrival. Gear left in this safety zone may be lost or damaged if not removed before this time, the announcement said.

Vessel operators desiring to enter or operate within the safety zone should contact the captain of the port or his designated representative by telephone at 767-0303 or via VHF radio Channel 16 to obtain permission to do so. Entry into, transiting, mooring, anchoring or remaining within this safety zone is prohibited unless authorized by the captain of the port or his designated representative, the Coast Guard announcement said.

Information updates for this safety area will be made by broadcast notice to mariners on VHF Channel 16 and 22 as well as in the local notice to mariners, available at navcen.uscg.gov/lnm/d1.

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