Coast Guard Investigating Multiple Laser Strikes on Ships in Chesapeake Bay

The U.S. Coast Guard says it is investigating multiple laser strikes on commercial vessels in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland during the last month.

The most recent laser strike occurred Wednesday when four strikes were reported between midnight and 3 a.m. involving the motor vessels Salome, Bulk Spain, and AM Annaba. Additionally, a pilot vessel was targeted as it was on its way back to the pilot launch.

Three other incidents occurred in recent days and earlier last month. Those were reported on Monday around 2 a.m., involving the MV Hoegh Osaka, Sunday at 4 a.m., involving the cruise ship Carnival Pride, and another April 7 at about 1 a.m., involving the MV Maersk Kolkata.

During each incident, the laser light was described as steady, powerful and somewhat painful to the eyes, the Coast Guard said, adding that one of the reporting sources believed the laser originated in the area between Drum Point and Cove Point, and lasted for approximately 15 minutes.

“Laser lights, and other bright lights can be a hazard to navigation,” said Lt. Trish Elliston, Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capitol Region. “The most likely 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.”

The Laser Safety Act, makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly and willfully cause or attempt to cause bodily injury by shining, pointing, or focusing the beam of a laser pointer on an individual operating a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft. The penalty is a maximum 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

In January, a Washington state man was fined $9,500 and ordered to serve 15 days in jail for shining a high-powered laser at the wheelhouse of a Washington State Ferry last October, hitting the master and chief mate in the eyes. 

The Coast Guard is working with state and local law enforcement along with Chesapeake Bay Pilots to investigate the Chesapeake Bay incidents. Anyone with information leading to the whereabouts of the individual, or individuals, involved are asked to contact the Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region Command Center at 410-576-2525 or via email at [email protected]