How Effective Is the Coast Guard in Carrying Out Its Commercial Vessel Safety Responsibilities?

Gao ID: CED-79-54 May 25, 1979

The Coast Guard's Commercial Vessel Safety (CVS) Program is responsible for assuring the safety of life, property, and the environment in and on waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Statistical data show that marine casualties nearly doubled during the period 1972 through 1976, demonstrating the need for CVS to carry out its responsibilities more effectively.

A staffing shortage existed at every inspection location visited, with inspectors working overtime supplemented by unqualified trainees and reservists. Many inspectors were not adequately trained or qualified. The Public Health Service is declaring mariners with serious physical and mental problems fit for duty after a union or company doctor has already declared them unfit. Harbor pilots operating under local, state, or a pilot association's jurisdiction are excluded from Coast Guard disciplinary action. Although the vessel boarding program has been expanded, the frequency of tankship safety examinations has been reduced. The quality of inspections, followup, and enforcement has been inconsistent. Response to foreign government requests for technical and training assistance has been minimal due to limited staff and the absence of direct funding. The function of the shipping commissioner, established in 1872, is obsolete.


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