Lightering Zones

Metadata Updated: February 27, 2019

This dataset depicts traditional Lightering Rendezvous Areas and designated Lightering Prohibited Areas in the United States Exclusive Economic Zone. Lightering is defined as the transferring of cargo between vessels of different sizes. In this instance, it refers specifically to the transfer of oil products from a large tank vessel to smaller vessels for transshipment into ports along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Lightering has been regulated differently during different periods of recent United States history. Prior to 1995, ships contracted to engage in lightering operations rendezvoused in the vicinity of one of nine locations (referred to as traditional rendezvous points in this publication). These locations are listed in the New Worldwide Tanker Nominal Freight Scale (commonly called "Worldscale") published by the Worldscale Association of London and New York. Worldscale lists these points as Offshore Transshipment Areas (Offshore TSAs). It is not practical for all ships desiring to lighter into a specific port to begin their operations at exactly the same geographic location, so many captains choose to begin their operation a short distance away from the listed coordinates. This dataset depicts the area generally chosen (referred to as Lightering Rendezvous Areas in this publication) as a circle with a 20 nautical mile radius around each point listed in the Worldscale. This enumeration was first described by a group of independent researchers (Ramboll Environ) after studying one year of aggregate lightering AIS data in preparation of a report on lightering vessel emissions for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Between 1995 and 2015, older ships of single hull construction, and those built after 1990 were allowed to lighter in five Lightering Zones designated by the United States Coast Guard in 33 CFR 156. However, ships of that nature were phased out of such operations by 2015 as directed in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 1990). Therefore, the Lightering Rendezvous Areas extrapolated from the traditional points in Worldscale are currently being used by the vast majority of ships offloading oil in the Gulf of Mexico. 33 CFR 156 also established three Prohibited Areas in the Gulf of Mexico in which lightering operations are prohibited due to proximity to heavy vessel traffic, sensitive ecosystems (or designated sanctuaries), and other factors. These Prohibited Areas are currently still in effect. Not all ships choose to utilize the Lightering Rendezvous Areas depicted in this dataset, but all are required to avoid lightering in the Prohibited Areas.This visual representation was produced from individual lists of geographic coordinates (NAD 83). Data were transformed and projected into World Mercator for display.

Access & Use Information

License: No license information was provided. If this work was prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person's official duties it is considered a U.S. Government Work.

Downloads & Resources


Metadata Date October 26, 2018
Metadata Created Date February 27, 2019
Metadata Updated Date February 27, 2019
Reference Date(s) May 7, 2018 (publication)
Frequency Of Update asNeeded

Metadata Source

Harvested from NOAA CSW Harvest Source

Additional Metadata

Resource Type Dataset
Metadata Date October 26, 2018
Metadata Created Date February 27, 2019
Metadata Updated Date February 27, 2019
Reference Date(s) May 7, 2018 (publication)
Responsible Party (Point of Contact, Custodian)
Contact Email
Access Constraints Use Constraints: These data are intended for coastal and ocean use planning. Not for navigation. | Distribution Liability: NOAA makes no warranties or representations whatsoever regarding the availability, quality, accuracy, content, completeness or suitability for the user's needs of such information. The services, information, and data made available on the Marine Cadastre web site are provided "as is" without warranties of any kind. These data are intended for coastal and ocean use planning. Not for navigation.
Bbox East Long -87.887036
Bbox North Lat 29.740998
Bbox South Lat 27.172606
Bbox West Long -97.152964
Coupled Resource
Frequency Of Update asNeeded
Guid gov.noaa.nmfs.inport:54387
Harvest Object Id b7d96052-55ab-4019-8309-9fcaf83f0b54
Harvest Source Id 2aed8e29-fc5b-4cde-aa66-fb1118fd705e
Harvest Source Title NOAA CSW Harvest Source
Licence NOAA provides no warranty, nor accepts any liability occurring from any incomplete, incorrect, or misleading data, or from any incorrect, incomplete, or misleading use of the data. It is the responsibility of the user to determine whether or not the data is suitable for the intended purpose.
Metadata Language eng
Metadata Type geospatial
Progress completed
Spatial Data Service Type
Spatial Reference System
Spatial Harvester True

Didn't find what you're looking for? Suggest a dataset here.