Coast Guard

Coordination and Planning for National Oil Spill Response Gao ID: RCED-91-212 September 25, 1991

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Coast Guard's activities and capabilities for ensuring that spilled oil is contained and recovered, focusing on: (1) the Coast Guard's efforts to coordinate with the private sector and others its plans to purchase oil spill response equipment to avoid unnecessary and wasteful duplication; (2) the new responsibilities the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 places on the private sector and the Coast Guard; and (3) whether those responsibilities call for a shift in emphasis in Coast Guard oil spill response activities.

GAO found that: (1) the Coast Guard is developing its equipment plans, for the most part, without preparing and using information on equipment currently owned by private contractors, regional cooperatives, and other federal agencies and also without considering those organizations' specific equipment purchases and placement plans; (2) Coast Guard officials stated that they have a general knowledge of the available private-sector resources and are able to rely on the expertise and professional judgment of Coast Guard personnel in developing equipment plans; (3) the Coast Guard's plans to buy oil spill response equipment risk duplicating private-sector investments; (4) under the act, the Coast Guard is responsible for ensuring that the private sector develops the capability and constant readiness to contain and remove spills of all sizes; (5) as the Coast Guard confirms that industry is developing the capabilities mandated by the act to clean up its own spills, it can pursue a strategy under which it would gradually reduce its inventory of equipment for containing and removing private-sector spills and focus on industry's compliance with mandated responsibilities; (6) in recognizing its responsibilities under the act, industry is planning to spend nearly $1 billion to acquire state-of-the-art response equipment, facilities, and trained personnel; and (7) the act gives the Coast Guard the authority and means to ensure that industry takes the steps necessary to fulfill its obligations.


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