Coast Guard

Oil Spills Continue Despite Waterfront Facility Inspection Program Gao ID: RCED-91-161 June 17, 1991

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined federal efforts to protect the marine environment from petroleum pollution caused by oil spills from pipelines and waterfront facilities, focusing on whether the Coast Guard's: (1) responsibility for regulating and inspecting waterfront facilities was adequately defined; and (2) waterfront facilities inspection program reduced the risk of oil spills.

GAO found that: (1) although the Coast Guard implemented a program to regulate and inspect waterfront facilities, it did not meet its full responsibility, since it did not inspect portions of intrafacility pipes that transport oil between docks and tank storage areas; (2) since the 1971 memorandum of understanding between the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency did not clearly assign specific responsibility for the oversight of transportation-related pipes, neither agency inspected pipes between the first valve ashore and the storage tank areas; (3) pipes at 17 of the 23 facilities examined had not been inspected, and for the pipes examined, up to 56,700 gallons of oil could spill in the 3 minutes it would take to reach the shut-down valve; (4) neither local nor headquarters officials compiled the basic information needed to determine the effectiveness of their inspection efforts; (5) the Coast Guard could not determine the effectiveness of its inspection program on reducing the risk of oil spills, since such basic information as the types, severity, and frequency of deficiencies found by inspectors was not compiled and linked with information on the causes of oil spills found by investigators; (6) inspectors identified 1 to 27 deficiencies in over 58 percent of the inspections; and (7) 57 percent of 1,402 spills investigated occurred during the transfer of oil between a facility and a vessel.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Team: Phone:

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.