Monday, April 21, 2008

Report to Congress - Ship Navigation in Harbors

In response to the Cosco Busan accident a 20 page report , dated Feb 8, was produced for Congress by the Congressional Research Service. According to the Center for Democracy & Technology the CRS is: "a "think tank" that provides reports to members of Congress."

According to the report summary:
"The incident has raised questions about the role of maritime pilots and vessel traffic services (VTSs) in preventing accidents in U.S. harbors, such as:

  • Is there a need for further independent oversight of pilot performance?
  • Could VTSs operate more like Air Traffic Control centers?
  • Should the pilot and ship captain be required to agree on a passage plan before transiting a harbor?

The report states:
The state pilot system has been criticized for being a relatively closed profession and claims of nepotism have been directed at some pilot associations
Regarding federal oversight of state pilots the report notes:
The NTSB questions how the Coast Guard can adequately perform its safety mission without direct oversight over the pilotage of the vast majority of vessel transits in U.S. harbors.
The report reviews arguments against VTS control of shipping but says:
If conning a ship is beyond the present capability of a VTS, Congress might still move to assess whether the VTS should exert more control over harbor traffic in bad weather conditions.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation to "prevent oil spills like the November 2007 Cosco Busan incident". According to the press release Feinsteins bill: "Directs the U.S. Coast Guard to control and oversee a vessel’s route and speed during dangerous conditions" The bill also calls for double hulls on cargo ship fuel oil tanks.

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