By 2015, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, even existing small tankers must have double hulls. The requirement affects Maine firms such as Portland Harbor Fuel, serving Casco Bay, and Maine Coast Petroleum of Tenants Harbor, which operates two tankers, 40 and 60 feet respectively, between Rockland and all the island communities between Monhegan and Frenchboro.

“We’ve just been told” that the Maine Coast Petroleum fleet must be in compliance by 2015, said office manager Terry Banda. The firm’s two vessels, the T/V Anne and T/V Duff, must be re-configured with double hulls if they’re to stay in service, Banda said. Both vessels were built in the 1970s, well before the enactment of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, known as “OPA 90.” Among other things, the law required double hulls on new tankers and put owners of older vessels on notice that in the future, they must either retire their single-hulled ships and replace them with newer designs, or retrofit them. It’s the retrofitting requirement that will affect Maine Coast Petroleum five years from now.

Maine Coast Petroleum (which also operates on the mainland, mainly in Knox county) delivers fuel in bulk, by truck or in drums, depending on circumstances. Products include #2 heating oil, K-1, diesel for fishing boats and pleasure craft, and gasoline.

Retrofitting or replacing a vessel to comply with changing regulations can be very expensive, and a government study commissioned a few years after the enactment of OPA 90 pointed to “uncertainties” over the law, particularly its impact on smaller companies that operate coastal tankers. Nonetheless, the law has remained in effect and Maine Coast Petroleum says it intends to upgrade its vessels when their current Certificates of Inspection expire in 2015.

Maine Coast Petroleum’s island customers include residents and businesses on Monhegan, Vinalhaven, North Haven, Islesboro, Swan’s Island and Frenchboro.

For John C. Ready Jr., proprietor of Portland Harbor Fuel, the situation is somewhat different. Ready operates a single barge and push boat with a capacity of 10,499 gallons, serving customers from the Isles of Shoals to Boothbay including all of Casco Bay. Products he handles include heating oil, gasoline, K-1 and diesel. “In 1994, when the regulations went into effect,” he says, “I built a double-hull barge.” Portland Harbor Fuel, he says, has been in compliance with Coast Guard rules ever since, meaning the 2015 deadline won’t affect it.