A REPORT released on the fifth anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill recommends that tankers remain 56 kilometres to 104 km off the California coast, between Bodega Bay in the north and San Simeon in the south. The recommendations are specially intended to protect the Cordell Bank, the Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries, Singapore's Business Times said. The report was written by Richard Townsend of United States-based Townsend International, whose expertise is in vessel traffic safety, and Marci Glazer of the Centre for Marine Conservation's Pacific regional office. ''Thousands of vessels carrying billions of gallons of crude oil, petroleum products and hazardous substances pass through the sanctuaries en route to, or from, San Francisco Bay, southern California and other areas,'' the report said. ''At least 1,000 tankers enter San Francisco Bay each year. Every year vessels experience breakdowns in essential pieces of navigation and mechanical equipment during voyages. If the vessels are close to shore, or in busy traffic areas, equipment failures could have extreme consequences,'' it said. These failures are made more troubling by the ageing vessels' poorly trained crews, inadequate inspection and oversights that are endemic to the world tanker industry. ''Under present practice, tankers and other ships may follow any route through coastal waters at the discretion of their masters,'' the report said. Most vessels ignore a Western States Petroleum Association voluntary routing agreement, whereby tankers operate 40 km offshore, according to the report. ''While efforts to use radar, vessel transponders and other forms of tracking have been made in Prince William Sound and in Europe, the activities of vessels off the California coast remain a mystery to the public and the agencies responsible for the public's interests,'' the report said. Warner Chabot, director of the Centre for Marine Conservation's Pacific regional office, praised Chevron and Arco for voluntarily keeping tankers carrying Alaskan oil at least 80 km off the California coast. ''Our proposal levels the playing field for all shippers, applying this sound buffer policy to all oil tankers and other large vessels which could cause a spill,'' he said. The recommendations include establishment of an ''area to be avoided'', drawn 64 km west from Bodega Bay, 56 km west from the Fallon Islands and 104 km west from San Simeon. ''The size of the area should be based on the rate of disabled vessel drift and the availability, speed, and effectiveness of emergency rescue towing vessels,'' the report said. It suggested modifying the Traffic Separation Scheme in the approaches to San Francisco Bay, replacing three sets of lanes with a single pair of lanes. The report also recommended stationing an emergency offshore rescue vessel in the San Francisco Bay area, equipped with the means to take a disabled ship in tow in adverse weather conditions, and to fight a fire on a large vessel. The Coast Guard needs to upgrade the San Francisco Vessel Traffic Service, and needs to submit a proposal to the International Maritime Organisation requiring that all large commercial vessels, especially tankers, be equipped with transponders that would automatically transmit the identify, location, course and speed of the ships, the report said.