During the past month, several commercial vessels have reported being struck by a laser, while in the southern Chesapeake Bay. This has prompted an investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard, which in turn initiated a warning to the public of the very dangerous act.
The laser light was described as powerful, moderately painful to the eyes and steady.
“Laser lights and other bright lights can be a hazard to navigation,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Lieutenant Trish Elliston said in a statement. “The most like scenario is the laser would blind or distract a pilot, which would prevent the pilot from seeing a smaller vessel. This could cause a collision or other serious incident in the shipping channel.”
Four of the incidents took place on Wednesday between midnight and 3 a.m., involving three commercial vessels, including AM Annaba, Bulk Spain and Salome and a pilot vessel that was returning to the pilot launch when it struck by a laser.
Three additional incidents have also been reported, one around 2 a.m. on Monday, involving the car carrier Hoegh Osaka; another at 4 a.m. on Sunday, involving the Carnival Pride, a cruise ship; approximately 1 a.m. on April 7, involving the container ship Maersk Kolkata.
The Coast Guard said the laser lasted for approximately 15 minutes and appeared to originate between Cove Point and Drum Point in St. Mary’s County.
Under the Laser Safety Act, anyone caught focusing or pointing a laser beam at a vessel, aircraft and motor vehicle could face a maximum fine of $2,500 and 10 years in prison.
The U.S. Coast Guard has teamed up with the Chesapeake Bay Pilots and state and local law enforcement to investigate the incidents.