Brief History - American Underpressure System

The American Underpressure System (AUPS) is a dynamic system which creates a slight vacuum (two to four pounds per square inch) in each cargo tank. This vacuum, assisted by the outside hydrostatic pressure of the surrounding water, prevents or minimizes cargo loss in the event of hull rupture. In case of a bottom rupture caused by grounding, nearly all of the cargo can be protected. In the case of side hull damage, cargo below the level of damage will be lost, while the cargo about the side hull rupture will be protected.

Development Chronology of AUPS

The developmental effort of AUPS was started by MH Systems, Inc. in 1989. Since then, an impressive array of technical papers has been presented to technical societies and organizations here in the United States and abroad. Included are, the American Petroleum Institute (API), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the Society of Naval Architects.

In recognition of AUPS, MH Systems, Inc. has received numerous awards over the years. Mo Husain, President, MH Systems, Inc. received an award from HRH Princess Anne of the United Kingdom for the AUPS system.

Furthermore, MH Systems, Inc. has received five U.S. patents for the Underpressure system.

Legislative History

AUPS originated as an indirect result of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA90). The OPA 90 was initiated due to the EXXON VALDEZ accident and requires that all tankers trading in U.S. waters must be double hulled after 2015, unless an equivalent to the double hull is found.

The U.S. Congress introduced several Public Laws in support of the AUPS system but DOT was not proactive in implementing the AUPS system. Therefore, in 1999, Congress redirected the funding to the Department of Navy’s Office on Naval Research (ONR). ONR is now responsible for finalizing the test of the AUPS.

Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90)

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) identifies the double hull as the primary remedial measure for all the tankers trading in US waters, and phase out of all single hull tankers is scheduled by 2015. The double hull construction is the choice in the long term. However, the double hull cannot be retrofitted on existing tankers. To reflect this concern and other concerns including mandated rulemaking for interim measures, the Secretarial Studies on alternatives to double hulls required in Section 4115, Section 7001 (c) (2) specifically provides for:

"...research, development, and demonstration of new or improved technologies which are effective in preventing or mitigating oil discharges and which protect the environment, including

(A) development of improved designs for vessels and facilities and improved operational practices:

(B) research, development, and demonstration of improved technologies to prevent discharges through the use of vacuums in tanks.

PL 102-388 - (1992)

PL 102-388 - (1992) is a provision in the Transportation Appropriation Bill (Introduced by Rep. Tom DeLay) states that "...... The Committee recommends $200,000 for a full scale test, to be carried out by the Coast Guard, of a containment system commonly known as the "American Underpressure System". These funds are not be obligated until local, state, private and other entities contribute at least $500,000 for the same test.

PL 104-324 - (1996)

PL 104-324 .- (1996) Section 1134(a) of that act directs that introduced by Senator John Chafee): (a) Funding - The Secretary of Transportation shall take steps to allocate funds appropriated for research, development, testing and evaluation , including the combination of funds from any source available and authorized for the purpose, to ensure that any Government- sponsored project intended to evaluate double hull alternatives that provide equal or greater protection to the marine environment, or interim solutions to remediate potential environmental damage, resulting from oil spills from existing tanks vessels, commenced prior to the date of enactment of this section, is fully funded for completion by the end of fiscal year.

Section 1134 (b) Use of Public Vessels. The Secretary may provide vessels owned by, or demise chartered to, and operated by the Government and not engaged in commercial service, without reimbursement, for use in and the support of projects sponsored by the Government for research, development and testing, evaluation, and demonstration of new or improved technologies that are effective in preventing or mitigating oil discharges and protecting the environment.

Congressional Hearing: October 30, 1997

Hearing on Oil Spill Prevention Measures Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation - Chairman - Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest. The hearing focused on two spill prevention designs: The American Underpressure System (AUPS) and the Central Ballast Tanker Design (CBT)

Excerpts from the concluding remarks of Chairman Gilchrest: "...So, we will--this committee will--starting today, pursue this issue aggressively. We'll probably talk to you further; we'll talk to the Coast Guard further. My sense is that innovative technology must relentlessly be pursued in order for us to continue to be the cutting edge to provide the best for the public. And the only way to do that is to give incentives so that the brightest will have the initiative to continue to pursue those technologies...

Admiral Robert E. Kramek’s (Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard) Testimony:

In a hearing before a subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives, then Commandant Admiral Kramek, in reference to MH System’s AUPS:

"If the test was effective, I think then we would take it to the International Maritime Safety Committee --- and then, if this looks like an acceptable system worldwide and for the United States, why, I think then we would need to take the next step…."

PL-105-262 (FY 1999)

The conferees directed the Secretary of the Navy to provide $2,400,000 to the Maritime Administration to complete testing of the potential interim solution to remediate potential damage resulting from oil spills from existing tank vessels such as the "American Underpressure System." The conferees believe that this system may have significant defense applications and may also provide environmental safeguards for tank vessels.

PL-106-79 (FY 2000)

In the fiscal year 1999 DoD Appropriations Conference Report, "the conferees directed the Secretary of the Navy to provide funds to the Maritime Administration to complete testing of the potential interim solution to remediate potential damage resulting form oil spills from existing tank vessels. Based on additional information, the conferees have determined that the Maritime Administration is not the appropriate organization to execute this effort. Therefore, the conferees direct that the fiscal year 1999 RDT&E funds be redirected to the Office of Naval Research for program execution."

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