SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOCPLEASE NOTE: The following transcript is a portion of the official hearing record of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Additional material pertinent to this transcript may be found on the web site of the Committee at [http://www.house.gov/transportation]. Complete hearing records are available for review at the Committee offices and also may be purchased at the U.S. Government Printing Office.
COMMERCIAL VESSEL SAFETY
WEDNESDAY, MAY 14, 1997
U.S. House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation,
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2 .m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Wayne T. Gilchrest (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. GILCHREST. The Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation will come to order.
The subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on the Coast Guard's commercial vessel safety mission. As you know, we will limit opening statements to the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member. If other members have statements, they can be included in the record.
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I want to welcome everyone to the hearing this afternoon to examine the Coast Guard's performance of its commercial vessel safety mission. We will hear from witnesses representing nearly every segment of the commercial vessel industry, and discuss with them their suggestions on ways to improve the safety of vessels on our waterways.
Of course, any discussion of Government regulations must address the need for American businesses to be competitive in the international marketplace. Some of our witnesses today will represent their suggestions on how to improve the competitiveness of our American flag fleet without compromising vessel safety.
I am very pleased with the direction that the Coast Guard is taking to ensure vessel safety. For example, the Coast Guard's Prevention Through People initiative will focus the attention of vessel operators and crews on safety. Other cooperative efforts between the Coast Guard and the maritime industry also will provide huge benefits to the overall level of safety in U.S. waters.
I commend the Coast Guard for carefully analyzing relevant information before making decisions that affect the industry, rather than relying on a single incident or anecdotes to establish the U.S. vessel safety regime. That's good advice for the U.S. Congress.
Because of the widespread interest in the Bright Field incident last year in New Orleans, our subcommittee members may have questions related to that accident. However, since the Coast Guard has not yet finished the investigation of the accident, Rear Admiral North will not be able to specifically discuss the causes of the incident. We will, however, discuss any lessons the Coast Guard has learned from the accident, and will consider any changes the Coast Guard proposes to make in the New Orleans area.
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We will also briefly discuss the latest developments in the Coast Guard's effort to revise its Vessel Traffic Service program. Recently, a group composed of representatives from the maritime industry recommended that we develop a waterways management system based on global positioning and ship-to-ship communications. I think this is a huge step forward and will allow us to promote safe vessel operations in all U.S. waters, not just those at the top of the Coast Guard's list of deserving ports. To continue with this important project, we must improve the quality of charting of U.S. waters, and I am interested in the witnesses' suggestions on ways to do that.
I am most interested in making sure that we have the highest quality of relevant information with which to evaluate the need to make statutory or regulatory changes affecting vessel safety. This may require the Coast Guard to make changes in the way it collects and compiles data concerning vessel mishaps. With all relevant information, we can be assured that we make changes for the right reasons, and take real steps toward vessel safety.
What I will do is recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Clement, when he arrives for his opening statement. And if the Chairman of the full committee or the Ranking Member arrives at some point during the hearing, we will recognize them for any opening statements. Mr. Coble and Mr. Johnson, you may submit opening statements for the record.
I would like to thank the witnesses for coming today. At this time, I would like to welcome Rear Admiral North. Admiral, you may begin your testimony.
TESTIMONY OF REAR ADMIRAL ROBERT C. NORTH, ASSISTANT COMMANDANT FOR MARINE SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, U.S. COAST GUARD
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Admiral NORTH. Thank you, sir. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Coble, Mr. Johnson. I am Rear Admiral Bob North, the Coast Guard's Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety and Environmental Protection. I want to thank you for the invitation to appear before the subcommittee today to testify about the Coast Guard's commercial vessel safety program. I've submitted a written statement for the record and would like to present a short oral statement at this time.
First, my thanks to the subcommittee for your efforts in the passage of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996. It contains many provisions that will improve maritime safety, protect the environment, and lessen the regulatory burden on the marine industry. Within the past few years, under the leadership of my predecessors, the Coast Guard has taken an approach to managing safety and improving service to the maritime community under the tenet that safety requires a balanced program of regulation, partnership, prevention, and people. Let me review some of our accomplishments.
First, our approach now focuses on the human element responsible for approximately 80 percent of marine casualties and pollution incidents. This approach, which we call our Prevention Through People program, represents a shift from looking at safety solely as a material solution and through regulations to getting people to perform their work safely through improved marine industry work processes. It is the basis of much of our current activity.
The Coast Guard is harmonizing U.S. regulations with international standards to reduce cost burdens associated with U.S. registry. There is more to be done in this area. We are currently actively working with the U.S. Chamber of Shipping to prioritize additional regulations for which international standards are an alternative to U.S. regulation.
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Another reform element is our initiative to develop alternatives to the traditional vessel inspection processes. The Alternative Compliance Program is designed to maintain current levels of maritime safety on U.S.-flag vessels while reducing redundant tests and inspections already being performed by authorized classification societies. In essence, we accept classification society class plus, in the case of the American Bureau of Shipping, a supplement to their rules for issuance of a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection. This has dropped Coast Guard hours on pilot vessels in this program from an annual number of about 13,000 in 1994 to just 275 hours of Coast Guard activities in these vessels in 1996. There are 65 vessels in this pilot program.
Another effort we're developing jointly with industry is the Streamlined Inspection Program. This program allows vessel operating personnel to conduct the majority of required inspections. In lieu of conducting full inspections, Coast Guard marine inspectors review the company's administration of the program and spot check various equipment and systems to the extent necessary to ensure the adequacy of the company's on-board examinations. Results include a reduction in vessel maintenance costs, the time required for the Coast Guard to conduct an inspection is decreased, partnership and cooperation between the Coast Guard and industry has been strengthened, and vessels involved with the inspection program were observed to have a higher level of safety awareness and to be more uniformly maintained compared to similar vessels in a traditional Coast Guard inspection program.
Coast Guard leadership at the International Maritime Organization was critical to the adoption of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, and the amendments to the International Convention for Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) which will improve U.S. and foreign vessel management and the competence of mariners.
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The Coast Guard's Quality Partnerships initiative is intended to establish mutually beneficial professional relationships which use both Government and industry knowledge and technical expertise to resolve non-regulatory issues through a quality approach. The Coast Guard has entered into four formal partnerships with marine industry associations. We established our first partnership with the American Waterways Operators to strengthen our communication and working relationship with the barge and towing industry.
Our second national partnership was created in January of 1996 with the Passenger Vessel Association. This partnership has been focusing on developing a simplified inspection program for domestic passenger vessels over the last year. Recently, the partnership team has also decided to examine risk management in that part of the industry.
The other two partnerships are less than a year old. Our partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Shipping and the American Petroleum Institute was established in October of 1996 to address the human element in tanker operations in U.S. waters.
Our partnership with the International Council of Cruise Lines was signed in April 1997 and our Quality Action Team is still being formed. Once established, their task will be to strengthen the communication and working relationships between the international passenger vessel industry and the Coast Guard.
Under the Port State Control program, the Coast Guard has increased its focus on identifying foreign vessels operating in U.S. waters which pose a significant risk to safety and to the environment. We prioritize foreign ship boardings based upon risk factors that consider a ship's owner and operator, flag state, classification society, history, and ship type.
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By the end of 1996, 34 percent of all foreign-flag vessels identified as substandard and detained in 1995 chose not to return to U.S. waters. Of the 66 percent that did return, only 14 percent of those vessels were subsequently detained in 1996. We believe this shows success and a movement in the right direction in our Port State Control program.
In the area of waterways management, we're working to establish ways to focus local stakeholders' energies in risk management development and application, as well as technology assessment and application to improve waterways safety. Effective waterways management involves a mix of measures to ensure the integrity of ports and waterways safety. Passive measures like navigation rules and aids to navigation will always constitute the most basic form of traffic management. And these passive measures, and others like that in concert with the skill and experience of a licensed master, mate, and pilot, have proven to be effective in preventing marine accidents in many areas. However, the risk of marine accidents and pollution incidents could be further reduced and the economic and environmental well-being of some of our Nation's ports and waterways might be improved with the installation of new Vessel Traffic Services that meet the needs of the public at minimal costs.
Vessel Traffic Service is an advisory service employing a range of capabilities that provide information to mariners to assist them in the safe movement of their vessels. Experience worldwide and the Coast Guard's experience in operating Vessel Traffic Services in a number of ports in the United States shows it to be a successful and valuable safety tool.
The Coast Guard has initiated the Ports and Waterways Safety System project to identify core safety requirements for new Vessel Traffic Services that will employ state-of-the-market, open system, off-the-shelf technology to provide waterway users information for safe operation. As part of that project, the Coast Guard initiated two outreach efforts to identify port safety and stakeholder needs, one on a national level, and the other in the New Orleans area.
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The national effort involved bringing together representatives from national level user and stakeholder groups. Their task was to develop requirements concerning the information mariners need to ensure safe passage, to develop criteria needed to identify candidate ports for new Vessel Traffic Services, and to advise us of the basic elements of a Vessel Traffic Service when such a system is deemed necessary.
The New Orleans group was created under the auspices of the Lower Mississippi River Waterway Safety Advisory Committee, an advisory committee chartered by the Secretary of Transportation back in the 1970s. This group began meeting in December of 1996 to develop for us a list of the desired capabilities for a Vessel Traffic Service for the Lower Mississippi River. They have completed their work, as has the national group, and both have submitted their reports.
We're now reviewing these reports to develop proposed Vessel Traffic Service technical specifications to meet their stated needs. We intend to take that proposal back to them for review prior to looking for someone to respond to that proposal to see if we, in fact, did hear what they had to say and that what we're proposing as a technical specification will, in fact, meet their needs.
In conclusion, having identified the human element as a factor in most marine accidents and oil spills, the challenge is to address it in our commercial vessel safety initiatives. We have taken on this challenge working cooperatively with ports and waterways stakeholders, including waterways operators. Our traditional enforcement role in maritime safety and environmental protection will continue as we simultaneously look for creative ways to apply Prevention Through People principles and continue our focus on building quality partnerships with the marine industry and reducing regulatory burden. In the long run, we will continue to find new ways to reduce human error-related accidents in marine operations to meet our goals for improving safety and environmental protectionour mutual goals with the industry we are in partnership with as well as regulate.
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I thank you again for the opportunity again to appear before the subcommittee today to discuss the Coast Guard's commercial vessel safety program. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Admiral.
We'll now go to Mr. Clement for his opening statement and for questions.
Mr. CLEMENT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is an important hearing. Good to see you, Admiral. Mr. Chairman I would ask that my statement be accepted into the record as if read.
Mr. GILCHREST. Without objection, so ordered.
[Mr. Clement's opening statement follows:]
Mr. CLEMENT. Admiral North, I am very pleased to see that the Coast Guard is now publishing on the World Wide Web a list of vessel owners that have had more than one vessel detained by the Coast Guard for violation of various international conventions as well as a list of the actual vessels detained and their problems. One of the objectives of this is to allow various cargo owners to know if their goods are being transported on unsafe ships.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Do you know if any of these owners or vessels have bid for or have actually transported U.S. Government cargoes? And if you don't know, would you investigate this with the Maritime Administration and let the subcommittee know the results of this investigation?
Admiral NORTH. Yes, sir. A preliminary look didn't show that to be the case. But we have contacted the Maritime Administration and will talk with them in detail regarding this list of operators and vessels to find the answer to the question and provide that answer to the subcommittee.
Mr. CLEMENT. Thank you.
[The information received follows:]
According to an analysis by the Maritime Administration's Office of Cargo Preference and the U.S. Coast Guard's Office of Compliance, 69 of the 476 vessels (14 percent) detained in 1996 carried U.S. Government sponsored cargo at some time between 1992 and 1997. Additionally, 22 of the owner/operators who were targeted under the Coast Guard's Port State Control Program in 1996 carried government sponsored cargo between 19921996. A list of these vessels and owner/operators, together with the government programs which contracted these ships are as follows:
Mr. CLEMENT. Admiral North, when we met in New Orleans over a year ago your staff told me one vessel per week loses power or steerage when entering or leaving New Orleans. To me, this indicates that the Bright Field was an accident waiting to happen. I have a few questions on the statistics. First, are ports in other areas of the country encountering the same rate of loss of control of foreign-flag vessels entering their ports? And second, how many vessels per week are losing power or steerage when entering or leaving all of the ports in the U.S.? And third, what is an acceptable rate, and what is the Coast Guard doing to decrease these types of loss of control?
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Admiral NORTH. First of all, in the New Orleans area, as we finished 1996, the rate turned out to be less than one a week, but still too high. In looking at other ports, it turns out that no other ports encounter that same rate of loss, which was a rate of loss of control of vessels. The rate in New Orleans was about 1.2 percent of those vessels calling. The next highest rate was about 0.8 percent. And other ports that we looked at out of ten large volume ports, it was considerably less than that. So the answer to that first part of your question is, no, other ports are not experiencing the same rate but they are experiencing similar type casualties.
If you look at the number per week losing power currently, we obviously do not have 1997 full data available, but in 1996, there was an average of three per week nationally.
What is an acceptable rate? The answer is I'll say zero in the sense that our goal would be to not have that kind of casualty occur. We see no acceptable rate in that sense. And in terms of what we are doing to try to achieve that goal, the Port State Control program that I mentioned in my opening statement focuses our efforts on vessels that are likely to have deficiencies or be substandard. Having a tendency to lose power or lose steering certainly is the kind of thing that we're concerned about. So our Port State Control program exists in part to find those kinds of vessels and work on that problem.
Looking at New Orleans as being a particular problem or having the highest rate, we have two things that we're doing in that area specifically. One is a quality action team to look at in some detail what the causes of those kinds of casualties have been and to try to focus in on solutions. The second is a temporary regulated navigation area the District Commander created in the area of New Orleans along the Mississippi River that imposed additional requirements for certain checks on those vessels prior to getting underway and also imposed operational restrictions on those vessels when they got underway in terms of having an anchoring detail, having someone manning the engine room if it was an unmanned engine room-capable vessel, having the vessel on engine room control, and things of that nature. The District Commander down there is probably going to ask us to make that regulated navigation area a permanent arrangement in that area.
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So we're focusing some specific controls in New Orleans and also focusing on our Port State Control program elsewhere in an effort to try to reduce that type of casualty.
Mr. CLEMENT. Admiral, given the fact that 90 percent or more of all passengers on foreign-flag passenger vessels leaving U.S. ports are American citizens, what action has the Coast Guard taken to ensure that the crew members responsible for the safety of American passengers can communicate fluently in English?
Admiral NORTH. The Coast Guard has looked at the language problem on those kinds of vessels. The Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping to some extent deals with that issue, more so with navigating and watchstanding crew members than with those people that deal with the passengers.
We're concerned that there is a language problem in that area. We do extensive operational testing of drills and exercises on those vessels prior to allowing them to operate from a U.S. port with U.S. passengers. And we go back and do periodic quarterly examinations for the same purpose. Part of that involves boat drills and fire drills, and in the course of that we try to make an assessment of the capability of the crew to deal with the passengers in an emergency. Beyond that, we have no specific program to carry out any further efforts toward the language problem on those vessels.
Mr. CLEMENT. Do you need to be doing more?
Admiral NORTH. We should look at other means to see what things can be done to make that problem less of a problem, yes, sir.
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Mr. CLEMENT. Thank you.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Clement.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, Admiral. Thank you for being here.
Admiral NORTH. Good afternoon.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Admiral, when the issue of vessel safety is first mentioned, the thing that comes to my mind is an incident that we had in my congressional district recently, in fact, last May, in the Delaware Bay. It was right before Memorial Day and about 10,000 gallons of crude oil were accidently spilled into the Bay by a valve being mistakenly left open. It looks like it was an error on the part of the person using it. I want to congratulate the Coast Guard for a rapid response with that. Since it was right before Memorial Day, we were pretty concerned with what would happen to our beaches.
But with that in mind, I have a few questions about what the Coast Guard is doing in the role of vessel safety. Could you briefly comment on the Coast Guard programs currently in place to maintain the safety of foreign-flag vessels operating in U.S. waters? For instance, are there uniform rules for the lightering operations? That's what this particular ship was involved in before it moved into the harbor.
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Admiral NORTH. We have our Port State Control program, again, where we look at a vessel's history, owner's history, and the type of vessel, to focus ourselves on those vessels most likely to be a problem in order to maintain the safety of foreign-flag vessels in U.S. waters. We also have a program for monitoring cargo transfers where we monitor lightering operations in some cases or other cargo transfer operations. On an annual basis, we board all those vessels and look at the cargo systems and equipment that's used in lighteringthe venting systems, the integrity of the cargo tanksto ensure that there is no obvious problem or any problem that we can discern at that point, and then go back and in the course of doing lightering operations or monitoring cargo transfer operations make an examination of a lesser scope as well as look to see that the various regulatory requirements that have to be satisfied to conduct the lightering or transfer operation have been satisfied prior to the operation or in the course of the operation.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you. Another issue sort of came to the forefront that was related, but not directly, to this incident that happened with the spill. In discussions with Senator Lautenberg and several of my congressional colleagues, we revisited the issue of the hull integrity of foreign-flag vessels. Could you just talk briefly about what the Coast Guard does in relation to the hull integrity issue for foreign-flag vessels.
Admiral NORTH. Again, in the course of visiting a foreign-flag vessel, we can examine hull integrity in locations where we can reach the hull. We also look to see that the vessel is classed and that the flag state has valid certificates aboard the vessel which attest to the hull integrity. We also have visited some foreign vessels in dry dock overseas using our inspectors that we have deployed overseas or sending people from the United States if there was a particular question.
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Mr. LOBIONDO. So, for hull integrity with a foreign-flag vessel, it is basically from what you can tell from your vantage point of looking, and obviously what's below the surface or something can't be checked?
Admiral NORTH. Only if we saw the vessel in dry dock, and also looking at the validity of the vessel's various documents from the flag state and from classification societies which attest to the fact that the hull is sound, or should attest to that fact.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Is there any documentation or recordkeeping which would indicate that certain countries may not be doing the job that they should be concerning hull integrity, either because of incidents that the Coast Guard may be developing or any yellow flags that may be raised that we should be looking at?
Admiral NORTH. Not hull integrity specifically. We have our list of substandard vessels that we have published and a list of operators who have vessels detained. These may or may not involve hull integrity.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Could you tell me what the status is of rules designed to phase-in double hulled vessels?
Admiral NORTH. There are rules in place. Double hulled vessels are being phased-in, single hulled phased-out. By the year 2015 that should be complete.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LOBIONDO. Okay. Thank you very much, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. LoBiondo.
Mr. JOHNSON. Admiral, just kind of a follow-up on some of the questions we were just talking about in terms of the 1996 December list of vessels that were detained in a typical month. Most of the vessels seemed to be freight vessels. Are you finding more problems with a particular type of freight vessel?
Admiral NORTH. Not particularly. We in our program have not tracked our data by type of freight vessel, only by freight and tank vessel. However, we know, based on international experience and some of our own experience, that bulk vessels over 10 years old, or vessels carrying low value bulk commodities pose a somewhat higher risk compared to other vessels. They're assigned higher points, so to speak, on our Port State Control matrix, so the likelihood of those vessels being boarded, all things being equal, is somewhat higher because of their history.
Mr. JOHNSON. Thanks, Admiral. I would like to talk a little bit about theand I know you've talked about it in your testimony herethe VTS, the Vessel Traffic Services. I wondered if you could describe that a little more, the current status as you're looking at it on the study and the need and the importance you feel it will give.
Admiral NORTH. You're talking about the Ports and Waterway Safety System?
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Mr. JOHNSON. Right.
Admiral NORTH. As I said, the national and the New Orleans groups have completed their studies, and provided us with their final reports. The national group provided us the information asked for in the sense of basic elements of Vessel Traffic Service criteria to use to decide where new Vessel Traffic Services might be needed and also the information that mariners would need to operate safely.
The New Orleans group provided us a list of 19 information elements, things that should be passed that was in somewhat more detail than the national group. It identified six areas in the Mississippi between Baton Rogue and 20 miles off of Southwest Pass, and of those six areas identified two specific locations that they thought might need some type of additional surveillance. They were pretty consistent in their view, I'll say almost fully consistent, in the sense that Vessel Traffic Services where they are employed should be mandatory. They focused on vessels that are required to maintain a bridge-to-bridge radio telephone capability as being those vessels that should be mandatory participants.
The national group focused specifically on suggesting what we call AIS, Automated Identification Systems, or transponder systems as a technology that we should employ as the basis for a new Vessel Traffic Service. The New Orleans group didn't focus on that specifically, but the types of things that they suggested a system should provide and the need both groups saw for communications to be unobtrusive and the system to be silent in terms of providing information would all point to an Automated Identification System, or transponder system as a solution.
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So, again, we are taking the information they provided, developing a specification, and we'll provide that back to those groups to see if, in fact, we're focusing on the area they think we should focus on. In the meantime, and I'll say concurrently while we're working with the national group, we've been identifying or examining technology to see what's out there, what the world of the possible is, and we're continuing to do that as we develop the specification.
We're ready I believe to take whatever funds are appropriated in 1998 and go ahead and develop a 1998 program and start installation of a system in New Orleans consistent with the direction we got from the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996 as New Orleans being a critical port where this kind of thing was necessary.
Mr. JOHNSON. Any cost estimates on this yet?
Admiral NORTH. The President's budget for 1998 is $5.5 million. And to begin installation in New Orleans, do the kind of things we want to do for test and evaluation, that's what we need to start with. We would be working in 1998 and on into 1999 to complete installation and do test and evaluation with both the users and the Coast Guard. We would want to complete that kind of work before anything became mandatory in terms of usage of the system or mandatory carriage of any equipment. We want to be sure that the technology works, that we've deployed it and tested it, that the users and that we are satisfied that it's a feasible thing to do.
Mr. JOHNSON. Thanks, Admiral. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Johnson.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, Mr. Gilchrest, for recognizing me.
A comment on a couple of things. First thing I want to start off with is the incident with the COSCO ship that had, if I'm not mistaken, two container loads of AK47s and possibly even some RPGs that were seized on the West Coast. It seems to be a bit of controversy as to whether or not the ship was responsible for that. Now, refresh my memory. I was always of the understanding that the ship's master or owner is responsible to the Coast Guard for what is carried on his vessel, in particular, as far as the compliance of compatible cargoes next to each other. In fact, he submits a form to you saying what he is carrying and where it is on board in order to minimize the risk of explosion or fire, is that not correct?
Admiral NORTH. Yes, sir. Dangerous cargo manifest, if it's classed as dangerous cargo, should show the commodities and the location.
Mr. TAYLOR. What troubles me is that the folks from COSCO, the Chinese Ocean Shipping Company, are saying that, well, we didn't know it was there. How can they give you a manifest saying they know exactly where every dangerous thing is on that ship and sign his name to it, but then turn around and saying for those two 40 foot containers he didn't known they were there. Something doesn't add up. Either he submitted a fraudulent document to you, or he wasn't taking the time to check what was on his ship. Which brings to question every other cargo container on that ship and whether or not his cargo manifest was worth the paper it was printed on.
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What is being done by the Coast Guard? Because I don't think this is going to be an isolated incident in the future. I happen to think one of the greatest vulnerabilities our Nation has defense-wise would be the importation of biological/chemical or, God forbid, a nuclear device through a similar scenario. Someone just washes their hands and says, well, we submitted a manifest and we made a mistake.
Admiral NORTH. In terms of verifying the manifest with the cargo, we have a container inspection program where we go aboard vessels which are in a container yard and try to validate that what the manifest shows to be true is, in fact, true.
Mr. TAYLOR. Was COSCO fined for this incident?
Admiral NORTH. I don't know, sir.
Mr. TAYLOR. Would you get back to me on that?
Admiral NORTH. Yes, sir, I will.
[The information received follows:]
The Coast Guard has not assessed a fine in this case regarding COSCO nor have any penalties been levied against the master by the U.S. Coast Guard. In this case, the weapons in question were discovered in a container that was not shown on the dangerous cargo manifest to contain hazardous materials. The weapons were discovered during a search carried out by the U.S. Customs Service. This case regarding the AK47 weapons is currently under investigation by the U.S. Customs Service, and their action is pending. Therefore, the Coast Guard is unable to provide any additional details about this incident.
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Mr. TAYLOR. I would sure like to know.
The second thing goes back to what some of my colleagues brought up as far as cruise ship safety. First, let me commend your congressional office. We call them fairly often and they do a bang up job 99 percent of the time.
Admiral NORTH. Good.
Mr. TAYLOR. They should be commended for that. But let me talk about the 1 percent. We have requested on several occasions the damage report, the incident report, whatever you choose to call it, of the Panamanian flag ship Discovery I when there was a fire on May 8, 1996. A fire was reported in the New Orleans Times Picayune, which is immediately adjacent to my congressional district. Obviously, as people have mentioned, about 90 percent of the passengers on most of these cruise ships are American, so it obviously is an American issue regardless of where that incident took place. But your folks have not gotten back to me with that report.
Now, if there is some national security reason why it is being withheld, I would be more than happy to meet your folks on the fourth floor of the Capitol and let them give that to me in private. But I can't believe there are any national security implications to this. I do think it is 1 percent of the time when I've made a request of your office that it has not been fulfilled and I'd sure like to have this request fulfilled.
Admiral NORTH. Yes, sir. I have no reason to doubt that we should have given that to you. We'll see that you get that report.
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Mr. TAYLOR. It's also my understanding that as recently as March 19th, when I was simultaneously detained in an Armed Services committee hearing, Congressman Clement made the same request. Yet, it has not been fulfilled. So that would make four occasions where that information has been requested. I personally would like to see it.
Admiral NORTH. Yes, sir.
Mr. TAYLOR. And you all name the circumstances. If you need me to drive over to Headquarters to read it, I can do that.
Admiral NORTH. I know of no reason why we can't provide that, and we will provide it.
Mr. TAYLOR. Can I give you one week now, since I've been fairly patient?
Admiral NORTH. Sure.
[The information received follows:]
A draft report of the cruise ship DISCOVERY I investigation was forwarded to Congressman Gilchrest, Congressman Clement, and Congressman Taylor under a cover letter dated May 19, 1997.
Mr. TAYLOR. Okay. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Taylor.
Admiral, the members of the National Dialogue Group on Vessel Traffic Services have basically issued their report. The Vessel Traffic System for the Lower Mississippi River I think have given some of their recommendations. Is there a timeframe under which the Coast Guard will complete their study to report to us, in particular, dealing with the GPS issue versus radar?
Admiral NORTH. We're looking to come and brief various members by the end of May perhaps, certainly by the end of June.
[The information received follows:]
On June 17, 1997, the Coast Guard provided a Ports and Waterways Safety System (PAWSS) brief for members of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee staff. The brief covered the results of the Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) user community outreach efforts at both the national and local (New Orleans) levels, a new technical approach to VTS based on Automatic Identification System technology, and VTS funding issues.
Mr. GILCHREST. I guess we couldn't get a preview of that? For example, is there any indication that a standard communications system such as GPS could appropriate nationwide, or is it something that might vary from region to region?
Admiral NORTH. Well, the transponder-based technology makes use of DGPS. In terms of a nationwide versus local or regional application, I think that depends on whether we're talking about new Vessel Traffic Services or whether we're talking about transponder technology alone or as the basis of a Vessel Traffic Service. I think dialogue is needed to develop, first, where we need to employ new Vessel Traffic Services based on the criteria that the National Dialogue Group set forth, and if there is an interest in using transponder technology for ship-to-ship identification or transmission of locations, course and speed, and other important information more widely than just in a Vessel Traffic Service area, we need to talk about that as well. Bear in mind that any vessels that are equipped with automated identifications using DGPS will be broadcasting and receiving that kind of information whether they're within a Vessel Traffic Service area or not, which is one of the advantages of that kind of technology.
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Mr. GILCHREST. I see. If I could go back to Mr. Taylor's question just for a second dealing with the ship that the Coast Guard found, I believe Mr. Taylor said, a box of weapons including AK-47s. Could you tell usand I understand you don't know what the decision of the Coast Guard was to fine, imprison, or what the penalty wasis there any reason under those circumstances that would warrant a foreign-flag vessel not receiving some type of punishment?
Admiral NORTH. Well, looking at that instance, if there was a cargo box on there that was improperly manifested or not manifested, not getting into the issue of what that was in terms of weapons and so forth, then there is a penalty that's due. A penalty should be processed for that.
In terms of that kind of cargo and the implications of that, I would have to look a little bit further for an answer. But there shouldn't
Mr. GILCHREST. Would something like thatI understand now on the Internet there's a list of vessels that the Coast Guard has said are unsafe so U.S. carriers might want to be careful about that. Would this be a situation where you could put that vessel up on the Internet and say these guys have been hauling illegal weapons?
Admiral NORTH. Well, the purpose of that Internet page basically is for vessels that we call substandard, which is not relative so much to improperly manifesting cargo as to the condition of the vessel and the way it operates and so forth.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. Safety of the vessel. About a month or so ago, the Fish and Wildlife Subcommittee had some question about the way that the U.S. charts its waters and the manner in which NOAA performs that particular program. Is the Coast Guard satisfied with the way NOAA charts our U.S. waters and inland waterways? Are there any recommendations that you can give to improve that process?
Admiral NORTH. In terms of I'll say paper charting, I'm not aware of any problems that we're encountering with that. That effort is satisfactory. In terms of electronic charting, there's a lot of work to be done. I'm not aware of the issues that NOAA has to face in dealing
Mr. GILCHREST. With the electronic charting, and you say there's a lot of work to be done, what does that mean? NOAA needs to improve the process it uses, or we need new technology to do that?
Admiral NORTH. Well, electronic charting, in the sense of NOAA electronic charts, I would say it's in its early stages. If we're going to have electronic charts and NOAA is going to be the agency that from the Federal perspective provides that kind of service, then, as I said, we're not done yet. There is work to be done. What impediments they have to completing that work, I'm not aware of.
Mr. GILCHREST. We have a vote going on. So what I think we'll do is we'll take one more question from Mr. Taylor, then we'll recess for the vote, then we'll come back to the second panel. Mr. Taylor?
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, sir.
Admiral, going back to the incident with COSCO, I was very much disturbed and surprised by the Administration's decision, apparently without consulting either the National Security Committee or I doubt our Senate counterparts, to lift the four-day notice that historically vessels from communist China had to give before sailing into a port that was militarily sensitive, which would include New Orleans where the Bright Star rammed the dock, and certainly a lot of other ports around the Nation. Was the Coast Guard included in this decision? And if so, I would like to be provided a copy of any remarks that the Coast Guard forwarded to the Administration with regard to this decision whether in support of it or against it.
Admiral NORTH. I'm not aware of whether the Coast Guard was included in that decision or not, frankly.
Mr. TAYLOR. But historically it has been Coast Guard officers that boarded these vessels when they came.
Admiral NORTH. Correct. Yes. I don't know what dialogue occurred to make that decision, but I'd be happy to find out what it was.
Mr. TAYLOR. Okay. I hope you'll consider this a formal request whether or not anyone in the White House consulted with the Coast Guard before that decision was reached. And if so, whatever documents were supplied by the Coast Guard to the White House, I would certainly like to see. Again, under whatever terms you feel are necessary. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Taylor.
Admiral, I would also like that information just requested by Mr. Taylor be sent officially to this subcommittee.
Admiral NORTH. Yes, sir.
[The information received follows:]
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you very much, Admiral North.
We will recess for about fifteen minutes for this vote.
Mr. GILCHREST. The subcommittee will come to order.
I would like to introduce the second panel: Thomas A. Allegretti, President, the American Waterways Operators; Joseph J. Cox, Vice President, United States Chamber of Shipping; Peter Finnerty, Vice President of Public Affairs, Sea-Land Services, Inc.; and Cornel Martin, Corporate Vice President, American Classic Voyages, Inc., and Chairman of the Legislative Committee for the Passenger Vessel Association. Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming. We appreciate your patience as we go through the ambiance of democracythe votes, arguments, and all those kinds of things. We look forward to receiving your testimony.
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We'll start with Mr. Allegretti.
TESTIMONY OF THOMAS A. ALLEGRETTI, PRESIDENT, THE AMERICAN WATERWAYS OPERATORS; JOSEPH J. COX, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES CHAMBER OF SHIPPING; PETER FINNERTY, VICE PRESIDENT, PUBLIC AFFAIRS, SEA-LAND SERVICES, INC.; AND CORNEL J. MARTIN, CORPORATE VICE PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CLASSIC VOYAGES,INC., AND CHAIRMAN OF THE LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE FOR THE PASSENGER VESSEL ASSOCIATION
Mr. ALLEGRETTI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon. Thank you for holding this important oversight hearing today and for the opportunity to present the views of America's tugboat, towboat, and barge operators. Diverse as they are, AWO's 300 member companies have a common bond, a strong commitment to marine safety and environmental protection. And so the subject that you are examining today is of intense interest to us.
Let me begin by saying that the Coast Guard's commercial vessel safety mission is important to our industry not only because it establishes the regulatory and enforcement regime under which our industry operates, but, more fundamentally, because it is a mission in which we share. While the Coast Guard has the statutory responsibility to ensure marine safety, our industry has a professional responsibility and a moral obligation to our employees, to our customers, and to the American people to operate our vessels safely and in an environmentally responsible way. And both the Coast Guard and the industry need to affirmatively exercise those complementary responsibilities. The Coast Guard cannot, and should not, be expected to meet the challenge of marine safety alone.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If one accepts the premise that marine safety is a shared responsibility, then that raises two fundamental questions for today's hearing. First, how can the Coast Guard's limited resources be leveraged or targeted on those functions which only the Coast Guard can perform? And second, what can the U.S. maritime industry do to facilitate marine safety?
Our recent experience suggests an approach and some mechanisms which are proving to be effective in meeting today's marine safety needs and which are very promising for meeting future safety imperatives. In recent years, we have witnessed a coincident transformation in the culture of both Government and industry. The industry I represent has made a commitment to be a leader in marine safety and environmental protection. The Coast Guard has demonstrated its own leadership by reaching out to industry to work in partnership with us to advance these shared goals.
Taken together, these cultural changes in both industry and Government have produced important new initiativesGovernment-industry cooperation through the regulatory process to ensure that the regulatory floor is adequate, industry-driven safety initiatives which encourage vessel operators to voluntarily exceed the regulatory floor, and Government-industry partnership aimed at addressing marine safety and environmental protection challenges proactively. Taken as a whole, we believe those components offer an effective model for exercising both the Coast Guard's responsibilities and the industry's needed leadership.
As the safety professionals are right in reminding us, however, marine safety is a journey, not a destination. We must, therefore, continually ask ourselves where and how we can improve. We believe that there are four critical steps to building on the positive foundation which exists today.
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First, the Coast Guard's enforcement resources must be targeted. Just as the Coast Guard's Port State Control program aims to focus enforcement efforts on substandard foreign-flag vessels in U.S. waters, Coast Guard enforcement resources should be targeted on those domestic operators whose safety performance indicates the need for greater governmental oversight.
Second, we need a broader recognition that each link in the marine safety chain is integral to real improvement and better performance. Vessel owners must do their part by embracing safety and quality initiatives. Shippers and charterers must do their part by refusing to hire substandard equipment and by rewarding with their business companies that are doing things right. Insurers must do their part by offering incentives to those operators who have initiated safety improvements. The Coast Guard must do its part by targeting its resources on those areas that are most in need of governmental oversight and by providing streamlined regulatory compliance mechanisms to those operators who do things right. And Congress can help by ensuring that the laws it passes do not inadvertently discourage marine safety.
Third, we must recognize that the proliferation of State regulation of vessel operations threatens to undermine the Coast Guard's commercial vessel safety mission by disrupting the uniformity of safety standards throughout the United States. Congress should reaffirm the preeminent role of the Coast Guard in regulating vessel design and operations, not only as a constitutional necessity, but as a fundamental precursor to an effective national marine safety program.
Finally, we must recognize that industry initiatives to improve marine safety are rooted in the industry's American character. Altering the national character of the domestic maritime industry will require a fundamental rethinking of the way the Coast Guard approaches its commercial vessel safety functions. The future success of the Coast Guard's vessel safety program, which is now predicated on an ability to join forces with industry and leverage its resources, will be very difficult to accomplish if there is no domestic industry to partner with.
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While the progress we have made through both these Government and industry efforts thus far has given us real reason for optimism, we believe that these challenges are just as real and must be addressed in order to fully realize the safety benefits that lie before us.
Thank you for the opportunity to present our views today.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Allegretti.
I think what we'll do is go through the entire panel before we begin asking questions.
Mr. COX. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon. In light of the time, Mr. Chairman, rather than read my entire statement, with your permission, I would like to briefly summarize my points here.
USCS represents 20 companies which operate all types of deep sea vessels, both U.S. and other flags. In my complete statement I address four distinct areasregulatory reform, waterways management, the International Safety Management Code, and the proliferation of State regulations.
Mr. Chairman, we began our work with the Coast Guard on the issue of regulatory reform in 1992. After considerable work, for which we commend the Coast Guard, a list of regulations exceeding those imposed internationally was identified which USCS refers to as the Delta. A great deal of time and effort was expended by the Coast Guard, the American Bureau of Shipping, and USCS on this effort.
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During this process, the Coast Guard recognized that it needed legislative authority to adopt certain regulatory changes. That authority is contained in the Coast Guard Authorization Act passed in the last Congress. To their credit, the Coast Guard took an important step immediately in promulgating requirements for the alternative compliance program. This addressed many of the concerns with the Delta, although a clearly identifiable number of unnecessary regulations still exist. We believe prompt action is necessary and long overdue.
The Coast Guard has assured us recently that they share our concern on that. Mr. Chairman, when we presented this issue to the Coast Guard in 1992, we suggested the issue of two sister ships built in the same shipyard at the same time and they both come into American waters and are docked on either side of a pier, one has a U.S.-flag and must meet an additional set of safety regulations which cost $1 to $2 million more than its sister ship across the pier, and at the same time, that sister ship across the pier is able to trade in our waters without having to meet that set of standards. We don't think there is any justification for this additional cost either in the building or in the continuing operation of the U.S.-flag vessel.
Our second issue is the area of waterways management. We participated in the dialogue of stakeholders on VTS recently. We were encouraged with the outcome and believe the process can be beneficially utilized in covering all waterways management issues. This is an important topic because our waterways will see increasing traffic and that traffic must be safely accommodated.
A comment on commercial vessel safety should include mention of the International Safety Management Code. The ISM Code becomes a requirement for tankers and passenger ships in 1998. The ISM Code will help identify unsatisfactory management practices, and USCS is very pleased to support the enforcement of the Code and to identify ourselves as main participants in its development at the IMO.
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Lastly, Mr. Chairman, we comment on our concern with State regulations. We are experiencing an increase in the frequency and number of issues covered at the State level. We do not believe safety is being served. It is ironic that in testimony where we encourage the Federal Government to finally end the unnecessary regulation of our ships that we identify over-regulation by States as an incipient problem.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would certainly be available to answer questions.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Cox.
Mr. FINNERTY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to have my full statement included in the record and I will summarize briefly.
Sea-Land certainly appreciates the opportunity to testify on commercial vessel safety matters today. Sea-Land uses over 100 container ships, 35 of which are registered in the United States. We will focus our comments today on a single issuethe urgent need to complete the reform of vessel standards applicable to U.S.-flag liner vessels.
U.S.-flag vessel standards differ from the international standards developed by the International Maritime Organization and followed by the maritime authorities of other highly developed nations. These differences increase the cost of operating U.S.-flag liner vessels over the costs of operating vessels under the flags of other highly developed nations. These differences are one of the competitive handicaps facing the operators of U.S.-flag liner vessels serving international markets. Since those handicapping differences are not needed to maintain safety, but do increase costs for operators of U.S.-flag vessels, these differences should be eliminated this year.
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We do want to make clear that the U.S. Coast Guard has taken steps in recent years to eliminate some of the regulatory excess, and is considering further steps. And we certainly appreciate those efforts. But, given the intense competition from foreign-flag liner vessels, the fast shrinking U.S.-flag liner fleet cannot afford delay in the elimination of costs caused by unnecessary regulation. So, we suggest that the Congress assist the Coast Guard's efforts to eliminate the regulations and requirements by passing legislation this year which would make clear that compliance with international norms would be sufficient for U.S.-flag liner vessels.
In early 1992, Sea-Land and another U.S. carrier filed a comprehensive 70-page paper with the then Transportation Secretary Andrew Card. That paper listed hundreds of U.S. Coast Guard vessel requirements that exceeded international norms and requested relief from those excessive regulations and requirements. To this day, most of the differences identified in that paper continue, embodied by rules which remain in the Code of Federal Regulations.
To the extent that the gap described in 1992 has been narrowed, it took place in 1995. On January 12, 1995, the Coast Guard approved a so-called U.S. Supplement to American Bureau of Shipping Rules. The principal purpose of the supplement is to identify additional requirements applicable only to U.S.-flag vessels, such as those included in the Code of Federal Regulations. Yet that U.S. Supplement to ABS rules sets forth over 74 pages, single spaced, of requirements imposed on U.S.-flag vessels, few if any of which are required of foreign-flag vessels flying the flags of even the other most highly developed nations.
In short, U.S. vessel standard regulations add cost to U.S.-flag operations, and these are costs that U.S.-flag liner vessel operators cannot afford. They are contributing to the rapid contraction of the U.S.-flag liner fleet. There are now less than 70 U.S.-flag commercial liner ships engaged in U.S. foreign commerce.
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There has been no demonstration that container ships, such as our new vessels, are any less safe under foreign registry than they would be under U.S. flag. Any notion that compliance with world vessel standards subject U.S. waters or U.S.-flag vessels to safety risks is simply false. Today, roughly 85 percent of U.S. ocean-borne international liner trade moves on foreign-flag vessels, vessels that do not meet the unique and costly requirements imposed solely on the U.S.-flag liner fleet. Those foreign-flag vessels transit U.S. waters routinely without incident during thousands of visits to U.S. ports each year.
Mr. Chairman, a U.S.-flag liner vessel serving international markets should not incur extra vessel costs solely because it flies the Stars and Stripes. This is especially so when those extra costs do not add to safety. The intense competitive environment faced by U.S.-flag liner operators leaves no room for error or unnecessary costs. As the U.S.-flag fleet shrinks, it not only diminishes the U.S. economy, it also undermines national security.
For all these reasons, we ask that the Congress pass legislation that would relieve U.S.-flag liner vessels from meeting U.S.-flag vessel standards that are not applicable to their foreign flag counterparts. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to answering your questions.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Finnerty.
Mr. MARTIN. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. It is indeed a pleasure to appear before you again on behalf of the Passenger Vessel Association. The Passenger Vessel Association is the national trade association for the domestic passenger vessel industry. Together, our members carry over 90 million passengers and hundreds of thousands of vehicles each year. And for Mr. Clement, we can assure you that there is no language problem between our crew members and the passengers we carry.
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We come to this hearing in the spirit of partnership with the Coast Guard. In fact, as Admiral North mentioned earlier, we recently entered into a formal partnership signified by the Partnership Action Team agreement signed between the Coast Guard and the PVA in January of 1996. This agreement is intended to facilitate communication and cooperation between the regulator and the regulated as we enter a new and still developing regulatory future.
While our partnership with the Coast Guard generally is characterized by good relations, we are concerned that there seems to be increasing signs of difficulty in commercial vessel safety program delivery. Some of the problems may disappear when the spirit of the Partnership Action Team agreement permeates to the local command level. Some, however, may be beyond the combined powers of the partners to resolve and will require the intervention of a third party, namely, Congress and this subcommittee.
We can break our concerns into four general areas. We can call the first the internationalization of domestic regulations. There seems to be a growing trend in the Coast Guard to take regulations written as guidelines by the IMO for the international ''blue water'' fleet and apply those as a one size fits all rule to our vessels operating in our domestic trade. We understand and support the efforts of Mr. Cox and Mr. Finnerty to harmonize domestic and IMO rules for our U.S.-flag blue water fleet in an attempt to level the playing field between the U.S. international fleet and the foreign-flag fleet. It shouldn't be difficult though to draw the line between their needs and ours. The problem has been that the line needs to be understood and it needs to be drawn, and a separate regulatory regime needs to be established for both.
We first brought this problem to Congress' attention in 1993 with the proposal to implement IMO stability rules on our inland fleet. The problem continues with the Coast Guard's recent attempt to incorporate SOLAS lifesaving equipment rules on our domestic fleet, and their proposal to adopt STCW amendments and the ISM Code as part of our domestic regulations. Therefore, we ask that Congress direct the Coast Guard to maintain a separate regulatory regime for our domestic and blue water fleets as they consider harmonization of the IMO rules.
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Our second concern deals with the over-regulation of our industry. In spite of the fact that the U.S. passenger vessel industry has historically operated safely, there seems to be a constant pressure to adopt new regulations. Recently, we all witnessed the incident involving the Bright Field in New Orleans. As a result of this foreign-flagged ocean-going vessel losing power and striking a dock in New Orleans, the Coast Guard implemented an onerous watchkeeping rule throughout the Inland River system. The result was untold cost in appeals, pleadings, and unnecessary compliance.
This relates closely to our third concern, the use of faulty data to justify new regulations. The Coast Guard has defined the passenger safety record of the passenger vessel industry using data which includes deaths and injuries not really related to the construction and operation of our U.S.-flag inspected vessels. In our written testimony we cite the example of data used to justify adoption of SOLAS lifesaving equipment rules where 99 deaths were related to refugees fleeing Caribbean islands in a vessel that doesn't even come close to the inspected vessels of our U.S.-flag fleet, like the American Queen or the Independence.
While the Coast Guard is rethinking that proposed rule, they are not, to our knowledge, doing anything to correct the database that led to that rule. Therefore, we ask that Congress direct the Coast Guard to redefine its marine casualty reporting criteria as it affects the domestic passenger vessel industry so that the data relates directly to the construction and operation of our vessels.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, we echo the concerns of AWO and USCS and urge Congress to restate the Coast Guard's and the Federal Government's preemption of State and local rules as they apply to the operation and construction of our maritime fleet. Our industry cannot survive 50 sets of rules by 50 States and even more rules by local authorities. We need one set of regulations by one authority.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to answering your questions.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Martin.
Some of the questions that I have are similar for each of you. I'll ask Mr. Allegretti the first question, and anybody else that wants to respond to it may do so.
Mr. Allegretti, you made a comment about laws which we pass that are enforced by the Coast Guard or regulations that the Coast Guard that ''inadvertently undermine vessel safety.'' Can you be more specific or give us an example of what you mean?
Mr. ALLEGRETTI. Yes, sir. I can give you a couple of examples. The two that I have in mind relate to the Oil Pollution Act. The first one has to do with the limitation of liability provisions in OPA 90. It was Congress' intent, as we understand it, in passing that law to establish a single comprehensive scheme that governed oil spill response, prevention, and liability, and in so doing meant to apply limits of liability for vessel owners except in the case of willful misconduct or gross negligence. Indeed, that law now is read as piercing the limitation of liability when the violation of any Federal law or regulation is the proximate cause of a casualty. In effect, what that does is ensure that vessel owners essentially never enjoy limitation of liability. We believe that is something that needs to be corrected because it puts the responsible corporation's assets at total risk whenever there is a spill.
Mr. GILCHREST. So you're saying the legislation that was written to limit the liability in the real world doesn't do that?
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Mr. ALLEGRETTI. It does not do that in the real world. In the real world, vessel owners that move petroleum in the United States do not enjoy any effective limitation of liability. And so every time they make such a movement, they are putting the total assets of their company and the investments of their owners at risk.
Mr. GILCHREST. Has there been a test case? I'm not sure how you draw that conclusion. Is that your interpretation of the law?
Mr. ALLEGRETTI. That is our interpretation of the law. I'm not sure that there has actually been a test case to have made that statement judicially, but it's widespread that that is indeed the effect of the way the law is crafted.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Cox, Mr. Finnerty, or Mr. Martin, would any of you care to respond to that?
Mr. COX. Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would agree that the law says that the limits of liability are broken should a Federal regulation be broken by the person who has had the spill. I don't think there has been any judicial test of that language. At the same time, I think all of our operators have to operate under the supposition that they don't have that protection of liability. I think it would be better to have it specifically stated in the law.
Mr. GILCHREST. That might be something that we may need to follow up with you on. If, in fact, that is the case and we have a big loop-hole, I guess we should begin the process of trying to fix that.
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Mr. Cox, could you give us a little bit more information about the sister ships that when they came to the U.S. ports one needed to meet one set of standards and the other one needed to meet another set of standards.
Mr. COX. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I made the comments here extemporaneously, so I may not have made particularly clear that we were talking about a potential situation.
Mr. GILCHREST. I see.
Mr. COX. However, several of our owners have
Mr. GILCHREST. Could you then elaborate on that to the extent that you can, but give us some idea of the regulatory programs that are specific for vessel safety that you see as unnecessary.
Mr. COX. Yes, sir. The actual potential situation was probably closer to reality than potential. We had an operator go to a foreign shipyard and say I would like to build a couple of ships or a series of ships, they were given a quoted price for building that ship to the international flagyou can say Marshall Islands, German flag, Liberian flagand they got a price quote. They then said we may want to flag this ship American when it is built. The shipyard then came back with a quote that was close to $2 million higher than for the international flag. The reason given was the adherence to the additional safety regulations that are contained in the CFR that would be applied to that vessel should it become U.S.-flagged. The operator made the decision to build those ships for the foreign flag. I don't know with what seriousness they entertained the American flag on that ship, but I do know that a $2 million delta between building foreign and building American was certainly an inducement to keep it as a foreign-flag vessel.
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The safety areas that we're talking about, is that when you're building a vessel you can have certain call-outs for material and equipment. The Coast Guard regulations may require you to have, for instance, tubing of a certain size. The class societies, when you're building a vessel to an international flag, can accept a 5/16 inch tubing, whereas Coast Guard regulations would specifically call out for 1/4 inch tubing. Mr. Chairman, there is going to be a certain cost associated for the shipyard to acquire tubing of a particular size that's different than the one that they would normally put on a ship. Particularly if you're an American and you want to go over and buy a ship that's in a series, the shipyard has already built four or five ships, they already have an inventory of equipment and supplies and materials that they used to build the ships, and you're asking them to divert from their normal process to buy a different type of material or equipment. I think that's where the additional cost comes in.
There's a second cost for the American carrier, and we're just beginning to see the reality of this as ABS starts to do some of the inspections on behalf of the Coast Guard, and that is in the areas of approval and testing. I think we have some work yet to do with the Coast Guard and with the ABS with respect to the law that requires the certificate of inspection. That process itself creates some time delays and also some requirements for the Government to actually do the hands-on approval and inspections. We think that those have to be changed, and we're developing the dialogue with the Coast Guard to accommodate that. But there may have to be some legislation necessary in that area also.
Mr. GILCHREST. First of all, as far as I think Mr. Finnerty made some statement that the pages for domestic safety regulations are single spaced 71 pages long.
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Mr. COX. Right.
Mr. GILCHREST. I guess it might not be a bad idea for us to review those 71 pages and see if there's any duplication or if there's any areas that can be modified or streamlined without compromising safety.
Mr. FINNERTY. Mr. Chairman, those pages are the list of items that exceed the international requirements.
Mr. GILCHREST. That exceed the international requirements.
Mr. FINNERTY. There is no duplication. That is the extent to which they exceed the international standard.
Mr. GILCHREST. That's interesting in and of itself, but I guess we would want to make sure that in the process of exceeding international standards they don'twell, I guess if they duplicated it wouldn't make any difference.
Mr. COX. No.
Mr. GILCHREST. But there are 71 pages, single spaced.
Mr. FINNERTY. Yes, sir.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. We should feel pretty safe in our U.S. vessels then.
Mr. FINNERTY. Yes, indeed. May I also say, Mr. Chairman, part of my statement that I did not speak to in my oral comments cites a section of the Coast Guard authorization which was enacted last year, as you know. Section 1137 of that bill does provide relief but it was targeted to a specific instance where vessels constructed for foreign registry are then brought back to U.S. registry to participate in a program. They were given specific relief from this problem that we're speaking about. We are now urging that a consideration be made to expand that type of relief to bring the U.S. requirements, in my case, for liner vessels into alignment with the international requirements.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Finnerty, if any of you gentlemen attend the IMO meetings once a year, twice a year, are any of these issues discussed there among all of the international members? I guess foreign-flag carriers are not going to take this too seriously because they're not hurt by this. Does the Coast Guard attend the IMO meetings?
I'm sure they discuss the issue of international standards and I'm sure that the U.S. wants to at least meet the international standards. What would you say drives the U.S., what entity or entities in this country drives us to go to 71 pages beyond international standards? Now, I'm not saying that those 71 pages are not necessary because I haven't read those 71 pages. I think we're going to have to get a copy of them and go through them. But what pushes us to exceed by that amount the international standards?
Mr. COX. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In answer to the first part of your question, on behalf of the American shipowners, I attend, as part of the U.S. delegation with the Coast Guard, the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the IMO and the Maritime Safety Committee. I think the actual answer isn't that we've decided to go beyond. I think several decades ago the United States undertook the effort to raise the world standards, and I must give the Coast Guard much credit for having raised the world standards to a very large degree. A vessel calling in our waters that meets the SOLAS and MARPOL requirements is a safe vessel. And with the STCW and its recent amendments, it's going to be crewed and officered by people who are very competent.
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What we've done is we've brought the world up essentially to United States standards. What the 71 pages are are an additional amountand I guess 71 pages sounds like a lot, but when you take into account the number of international regulations that there are, 71 pages actually is
Mr. GILCHREST. How many pages of international regulations? If you looked at the set of standards and you included the international regulations, how many pages it is total?
Mr. COX. On my bookshelf, I only have the SOLAS and the MARPOL and its various amendments and I would say
Mr. GILCHREST. There's not like 3 pages of international standards and then 71 of U.S. standards?
Mr. COX. Mr. Chairman, I have two hardback books and about five paperback addendums to it and still more to come. It's about a foot wide on my bookshelf. It is not inconsequential. We're talking about a very serious upgrading of the world standards. But in doing that, there are many standards that American ships have to meet that weren't adopted internationally and I don't think that we actually considered them important enough to require internationally. I'll go further to say that of those 71 pages, there may be some of those items that are important. But, Mr. Chairman, there is then more the reason that we take those to the IMO and say to the world you adopt these standards, we think they're important, we think they should be required on vessels, and when they are, then the United States operators will also adhere to those requirements.
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But there is simply no justification to allow our vesselswhich on the liner side are 70, and on the tanker side 100 or soto have to meet that additional delta when the majority of vessels calling in our ports do not have to. I think the IMO is the perfect forum to take all those regulations there and see what the international community would like to do with them.
Mr. GILCHREST. I don't want to stay too long on the 71 pages, but the U.S. has raised the international standards, which I guess we all can agree is a very positive thing, and not all of the extra 71 pages, you're suggesting, is a bad idea. It may be a good idea to raise the international standards even further to what the United States has achieved at this point. Those standards, those extra 71 pages, is that 71 recommendations that have been implemented as a result of the Coast Guard? How much of that is legislation from Congress?
Mr. COX. The 71 pages, Mr. Chairman, includes no legislation of Congress, we identified only regulations. Coincidentally, there are legislative requirements which exceed the international community, but that would be something we would have to bring before your committee under a separate
Mr. FINNERTY. But those regulations implement some statutes, don't they?
Mr. COX. I think the Coast Guard is given the authority in statute to implement certain regulations, but they are not required in that statute to implement all those regulations.
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Mr. FINNERTY. It's in the area of administrative discretion, I think, over many years, Mr. Chairman. Indeed, as it was explained to me, much of this material over time has grown up in the U.S. implementation of various international understandings and they have carried it out, for instance, to a much greater extent or with much greater specificity which constitutes a substantial difference between what is done with the international norm for foreign-flag vessels more or less and the U.S.-flag fleet. And it is that difference that constitutes a substantial cost problem.
Mr. GILCHREST. Since you're testifying here this afternoon, I must assume that you're making a recommendation that we do one of two things: use our power as a legislative body to change the 71 pages for U.S. vessels, or to use our influence as a legislative body to have the rest of the world adopt those extra 71 pages. Which one of those?
Mr. FINNERTY. Well, the specific request that we are making, Mr. Chairman, is to use your legislative power to eliminate, to the extent possible, that difference so that we can bring U.S. requirements for U.S.-flag vessels in U.S. waters into a level playing field, as was said earlier, with the thousands of foreign-flag vessels that we are competing against in U.S.-flag ports and U.S.-flag waters. These requirements are not applied at all, even in U.S. ports, to the thousands of ships which are deemed to be safe that are carrying 85 percent of U.S. import-export liner trade.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Finnerty, would you just blanket eliminate the 71 pages, or would you send us a recommendation of the ones that you think
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FINNERTY. We would be happy to provide you with some draft language, Mr. Chairman, so that you can evaluate it and decide whether or not it merits your support. It is an attempt on our part, in addition to our previous efforts, to both through the legislative channel as well as through the Coast Guard's administrative procedures to try and correct this problem as soon as possible. And as I described, we have been trying to accomplish this goal since 1992.
Mr. GILCHREST. I see that Mr. Johnson is here. I hope he hasn't been here too long because I've taken license with the Chair to ask long questions. So I will now yield to Mr. Johnson.
Mr. JOHNSON. I have no questions. I was just going over some of the testimony and I heard some of the same concerns that you brought up. So I have no questions of this panel at this time. I may have questions for the later panel. Thanks.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Johnson.
I'll just ask one more quick question. Actually, the votes are over and I can go home when we're done here, I don't know if the staff wants to go home or not, but I have two hour drive and I could probably be home before 7:00 if we conclude this. So if the last panel doesn't want to testify. No, no, that's all right.
Mr. GILCHREST. Not that I want to put you on the spot or anything, but could we eliminate 71 pages and assume that vessels would be safe?
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Mr. FINNERTY. Yes, sir. I tried to describe in my comments that is in effect what our regime of law here in our country has done for some long period of time by allowing the vast majority of America's imports and exports to move under those international standards, and the vast amount of that activity is accomplished safely and acceptably by not only our Coast Guard, but by all of us that are watching for violations or problems in the area of safety and the environment. On the whole, it has been proven to be effective. Where it has been found to be short, the Congress has stepped in, as it did back in the early 1990s, and has applied American jurisdiction to require that those standards, even for foreign vessels, be raised. But the experience has shown that the agreements and the details agreed to at the IMO have been proven to be safe. And we need as quickly as possible to bring the American regime into alignment with those agreements.
Mr. GILCHREST. Would you agree with that, Mr. Cox?
Mr. COX. Yes, sir. In fact, I think we should note that we have been working with the Coast Guard for these past years and the supplement, as it has been defined, has been winnowed down somewhat. We're now down to the point where we must take some action on these remaining regulations.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Allegretti, would you agree with that?
Mr. ALLEGRETTI. Mr. Chairman, this is not an issue that directly affects our membership, so I defer to Mr. Cox and Mr. Finnerty.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Martin, I may have misunderstood you, but you made a comment about two separate regulatory schemes.
Mr. MARTIN. Mr. Chairman, that's correct. Where it has posed a problem for our industry is for smaller operators. For example, a whale watcher out of Boston has a captain and maybe two deck hands on board the vessel. Because he ventures beyond the boundary of the United States, he is, in one case recently, interpreted to fall within certain international regulations because he actually crosses the boundary. Our point was that in harmonizing these rules, we need to recognize that rules that apply to international vessels with international crews that call on international ports don't exactly fit the same situation as operating a two hour cruise out of Boston. That's where the problem has come into our industry. We recognize what Mr. Finnerty and Mr. Cox are promoting and urge that action be adopted, but in a way that recognizes the differences with our domestic fleet.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you. Would any of you very briefly care to comment about the proposal or the non-proposal, I'm not sure where it stands, as far as commercial vessel safety standards with either radar or GPS systems being deployed regionally or locally or nationally. Any comment about that?
Mr. COX. Let me comment very quickly on that, Mr. Chairman. I was on the National Dialogue Group that worked on that area. We certainly recommended that a non-intrusive electronic transfer of information from vessel to vessel utilizing the differential GPS is the wave of the future. It is technologically available to us now. And to begin to develop our VTS relying on technologically antiquated radar or TV-type systems is simply not the way we should go. We should look to the future and accept the fact that we have a greater ability to know where another vessel is. I think the important piece for us was it's non-intrusive.
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There's a lot going on on the bridge of ships when they're in crowded waterways. And it certainly would be beneficial to be able to glance down and see where others are without having to talk to the other people to find out if that's actually who they are.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you very much.
Anybody else? Mr. Allegretti?
Mr. ALLEGRETTI. I might add that our organization also participated on both the national and the local dialogue. We are very supportive of the results which emerged from both of those efforts. We think that the automated information system as the foundation for future VTS is the right way to go. It takes us into the technology of the next century rather than wedding us to the technology of the past, as we would have done had we proceeded with the earlier proposal. So we think we've come a long way through this process. The next issue becomes how do we effectively put it into place.
There is also an ancillary piece of this that's important, and that is that the differential GPS-based system and the electronic charts and the transponders, we believe, will ultimately have application nationwide, not only in ports with vessel traffic service systems, and that's going to do enormous good in terms of the efficiency and the safety of vessel navigation.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Martin?
Mr. MARTIN. Mr. Chairman, we would only caution that whatever system is developed be developed as a nationwide system. We have a concern in that there is a local system which has developed in the L.A.-Long Beach area and is run by a local authority there, as similarly the State of Louisiana today is considering legislation which would establish a commission with authority to establish a VTS system in the State of Louisiana. So our concern is that we end up with a hodgepodge of VTS systems. So it is important that the Coast Guard not only act quickly, but that it let it be known that they will indeed implement the systems where they are required and not let the States act independently so that we have a patchwork system across America.
Mr. GILCHREST. Gentlemen, thank you very much. We'll stay close to that issue and hope you resolve itI'm going to make the staff a little concerned nowbefore the summer's over. Thank you very much, gentlemen. Happy sailing.
Our next panel is Captain Jack Sparks, President, American Pilots' Association; Nicholas Marrone, Vice President of Training, Paul Hall Maritime Center, Piney Point, Maryland, representing the Seafarers International Union, accompanied by Terry Turner, National Director of Political Action and Government Affairs, Seafarers International Union. Welcome, gentlemen.
Captain SPARKS. Thank you, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Sparks, you may begin. Welcome to the Nation's Capital.
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TESTIMONY OF CAPTAIN JACK SPARKS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN PILOTS' ASSOCIATION; NICHOLAS MARRONE, VICE PRESIDENT, SEAFARERS HARRY LUNDEBERG SCHOOL OF SEAMANSHIP, PAUL HALL MARITIME CENTER, PINEY POINT, MARYLAND, REPRESENTING THE SEAFARERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, ACCOMPANIED BY TERRY TURNER, NATIONAL DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL ACTION AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS, SEAFARERS INTERNATIONAL UNION
Captain SPARKS. Thank you. I would like before I begin to ask if I some additional information that I would like to enter into the record later than today, if that's possible.
Mr. GILCHREST. Without objection, we'll keep the record open for you, sir, for five days. No objection. So ordered.
Captain SPARKS. Thank you. Commercial vessel safety is a broad topic, but I will limit my comments to three of the current issues that are of particular interest to pilots.
First, National AIS/Transponder Program. The American Pilots' Association proposes establishing in most of the ports and waterways in the United States vessel Automated Information Systems (AIS) employing the Differential GPS and on-board transponder technologies. A national AIS program would be an appropriate Federal function that could significantly enhance navigation safety at a relatively low cost in public money.
As we envision it, the program would have four elements:
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(a) The selection of the ports and waters where the national AIS program would be implemented. A position selection basis would be any port or waterway system where commercial, ocean-going vessels operate and a State or Federal compulsory pilotage requirement applies.
(b) A Federal statute or regulation establishing a transponder carriage requirement using the cover of the Bridge-to-Bridge Radiotelephone Act. Every vessel subject to the Radiotelephone Act would be required to have a functioning transponder capable of giving the vessel's location as well as the other information specified under the national and international standards.
(c) International standards for transponder equipment, governing such things as the communication medium and the strength and information content of the transponder signal.
(d) The installation and maintenance of whatever infrastructure features, i.e., antennas, microwave dishes, signal relay stations, or central servers, would be necessary for an AIS system in a particular port or waterway.
The second subject would be English language requirement. The navigation safety problem most often mentioned by pilots today is the poor or non-existent English speaking capability of masters and bridge crews on foreign-flag ships.
There are existing international and national regulations requiring certain levels of English language comprehension by masters and various other members of a ship's crew. It is unclear whether those regulations need to be strengthened or whether additional enforcement of existing regulations would be sufficient. We are, however, aware of the difficulty of enforcing any regulation on this subject and developing a workable definition of the requisite English language proficiency that a crew member must have and a practical way of measuring it. We would suggest that the Coast Guard conduct a study on this issue and report back to Congress on whatever additional statutory authority might be needed.
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A language barrier between the pilot and the bridge crew creates a significant safety risk. Pilots and masters must be able to communicate if each other is perform his or her responsibilities in the navigation of a ship. In addition, poor English skills defeat many of the current human factors proposals for improving navigation operations. It is futile, for example, to attempt extensive master-pilot conferences or expanded bridge resource management training if a language barrier prevents even the most basic of communications.
The third item is the recognition of the role of the compulsory pilot. The most important component of this country's navigational safety and waterway management system is a compulsory State pilotage. A compulsory pilotage requirement is navigation safety regulation. While State and Federal regulations can require ships and their crews to follow certain operating rules and procedures, the compulsory State pilotage requirement places on the bridge of a ship an individual whose statutory duty is to prevent accidents and to protect the public interest.
Initiatives to improve navigation safety and to manage more effectively the use of the waterways should recognize and take advantage of this aspect of pilotage. We have discussed with the Coast Guard that there are great benefits in any port or waterway to a cooperative, mutually supportive working relationship between the Coast Guard Captain of the Port and the local State pilots. In order for such a relationship to work, each side must appreciate the role and responsibilities of the other. They should consider themselves as allies or partners in the job of preventing marine accidents. We will continue working with the Coast Guard to support the development of this type of relationship in each port and waterway.
Lastly, we appreciate the interest of this subcommittee in improving navigational safety. The APA is a professional association and the APA pilot members are committed to working with the subcommittee and all others who share the goal of making our waters safer and our ocean-borne commerce more efficient. Thank you.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Sparks.
Mr. MARRONE. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, good afternoon. I am Nick Marrone, Vice President of the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship, testifying on behalf of the Seafarers International Union of North America and the Lundeberg School, a joint labor-management training and educational facility located in Piney Point, Maryland. Thank you for the opportunity to address you this afternoon to describe the involvement of the school and the union in enhancing vessel safety and reducing pollution incidents.
We believe that in matters of marine safety and pollution prevention, it is the commitment, competence, attitudes, and motivation of individuals at all levels and in all aspects of ship operationsmanagement, crew, and Government alikethat determine the end result. Because of this conviction, the SIU and the Lundeberg School applaud the efforts of Coast Guard Admiral James Card in initiating the Prevention Through People program addressing the human element in vessel operations, both ashore and afloat. We perceive the program as a partnership between Government, management, and labor, each fulfilling specific responsibilities, and believe that the key to its success lies in the complete and honest cooperation and interaction of all three components.
The program focuses prevention efforts on the human elementa focus which we believe is long overdue in both the national and international shipping community. We are pleased that the program includes as a guiding principle ''honor the mariner'' which recognizes the role of the mariner in the delicate equation. We have always emphasized that the people who are involved in day-to-day operations can best define how to make these operations safer and cost-effective.
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We are delighted to endorse a specific focal point of the programto train more, giving members of the maritime community the necessary skills and knowledge to improve safety and prevent pollution. We also support the revised STCW Convention, believing that training is a most valuable asset to this industryin fact, one of the basic issues underlying vessel safety. We believe that education and training of officers and crews is one of the key factors in arresting the tide of serious accidents.
We have embraced a competency-based training, demonstration of proficiency philosophy of the STCW and wish to advise you that many of the new STCW training requirements have been in place at the school for a number of years. Most emphatically, the revised STCW will enhance safety because for the first time the International Maritime Organization has oversight capability to verify that parties are complying with the Convention requirements.
In line with the STCW requirements, the SIU in conjunction with the Lundeberg School is the first organization to receive U.S. Coast Guard's acceptance for a training record book that will show U.S. mariners are complying with existing national and impending international regulations, documenting both their training and competency of various shipboard skills. Mr. Chairman, I brought a sample of that book if you'd like to see that later on.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
Mr. MARRONE. To promote safety, the Lundeberg School, with the approval of the Coast Guard, recently initiated the unlicensed apprentice program, a new training program that intensifies the period of entry level mariner training from 12 to 29 weeks with 12 weeks of practical experience at sea.
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But training is only one basic issue of safety. Manning levels are another. And in this area, a serious deficiency exists. Increased automation and economic pressures launched a trend toward smaller and smaller crews. We have reached a point where shipping companies request crew complements smaller than those mandated by law and regulation. And, in many cases, these requests are honored by the Coast Guard without seeking any input from the organizations which represent the mariner.
In line with the PTP principles, we, the representatives of labor, management, and Government, need to address the manning issue openly and correctly respond to the question, how many mariners does it take to sail a particular vessel safely? We must also address aspects of manning on the inland waterways. A 1994 Coast Guard study indicates that towing vessel manning appears to be arbitrary and confusing, and changes may be needed to ensure that appropriate work-hour limits and watchkeeping requirements are effective. This issue should be addressed in the spirit of the PTP guidelines by labor, management, and Government together. Unfortunately, labor has been virtually ignored as the Coast Guard and private organizations pursue agreements among themselves in their efforts to enhance safety on the inland waterways.
I will take this opportunity to once again emphasize before a congressional committee the safety need for all seamen on the inland waterways be documented. Perhaps the time has come to discuss this issue again, both within the committee and within the spirit of the PTP guidelines.
We would also like to take this opportunity to request that the committee address the following:
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Permitting foreign-flag vessels which have been found in violation of domestic or international standards by the Coast Guard to bid for Government-generated cargoes.
The inadequacy of manning levels on foreign-flag vessels which is compounded by the inadequate skill levels increasingly found aboard these vessels.
The difficulty and sometime inability of vessel pilots to navigate foreign-flag ships into American ports stem, in part, from the inadequate comprehension of the English language by crew members.
The strict enforcement of STCW requirements across the board, including provisions regarding basic safety training, those requiring English competency for watchkeeping personnel, and rest-hour periods.
The absence of any real ability by the Coast Guard to track and enforce drug testing in marine operations on the inland waterways where employees are not required to hold merchant mariner documents.
Enforcement verification of OPA 90 required work-hour limits.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I stand ready to respond to any questions you may have.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Marrone.
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Mr. Johnson, do you have any questions?
Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, just a couple.
Mr. Marrone, talking about the crew size there and how many mariners does it take to sail a particular vessel safely, and interesting question. Any examples that you can point to that you may have brought along in terms of reduced crew size that in your opinion led to unsafe or dangerous situations?
Mr. MARRONE. In general, sir, the recent negotiations of our contracted companies have led to promoting for smaller crews. The fatigue factor is the predominant problem. The ship operates 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When emergency situations occur, if you've just finished a 15 hour day and have only been sleeping for 3 hours, you have to get up and perform the necessary duties. There's just not enough people on board to allow adequate rest periods.
Mr. JOHNSON. Have you had any incidents in terms of actual physical injury to crew or to others because of what you believe to be reduced crew size or inadequately manned vessels?
Mr. MARRONE. Mr. Johnson, sir, I did not come with that data, but I can supply that for you.
Mr. JOHNSON. Okay. I think that would be interesting in light of your testimony.
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[The information to be provided follows:]
Question 1 (by Rep. Johnson):
Have you had any incidents in terms of actual physical injury to crew or to others because of what you believe to be reduced crew size or inadequately manned vessels?
It is our strong belief that reductions in manning have had and will continue to have a direct negative effect on vessel operational safety. Our viewpoint is substantiated by anecdotal recollections of SIU members and their experiences aboard vessels with reduced manning. It is very difficult at this point in time to submit substantiation of such from analytical studies, since there are very few studies completed on the relationship between reduced manning and maritime safety. Generally, such statistics have not been compiled or reduced manning comprehensively studied. Coast Guard data bases have been inadequate to support even retrospective conclusions about the safety records of U.S.-flag vessels that have reduces crews. The Coast Guard has only recently initiated studies in both the deepsea and towing vessels industries regarding models for vessel manning. Further, it has come to our attention that oftentimes flag states do not investigate accidents involving their vessels, including causation related to crew size and performance capabilities. Since 85 percent of marine accidents have been attributed to human error, it would logically follow that the size of the crew and other factors that might put a substantial strain on the mariner should be studied. This is precisely why we raised the issue of reduced manning before the subcommittee.
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A worldwide effort is needed to standardize, gather, and evaluate safety data in order to identify trends and provide the technical basis for a correlation between reduced manning and maritime safety. In fact, it is only recently that attempts are being made in both the national and international arena to study the impact of fatigue which has been recognized as a problem associated with reduced manning.
Mr. JOHNSON. I have a question also about the previous testimony. In terms of the AIS transponder system that you were talking about, the four elements of the program as you outlined them, any cost estimates or suggestions on paying for any of this?
Captain SPARKS. Well, I can give you some comparison. I don't want to make this statement to really knock a particular area, but the City of New York is a VTS system operated by the Coast Guard. It requires 34 full-time employees plus the cost of building the facility, which I don't have that knowledge. But just that cost alone is, as you can see, a lot.
We have a VTS system on the Delaware River that goes into Philadelphia. The cost there is three or four people in a control tower and the cost of a portable DGPS system is less than $1 million. As you can see, it is not even comparable in cost over a period of time. Now, granted, in that particular area there is more traffic in the New York system, but I think with relatively few more people, that could be implemented, for instance, in New York, a silent system, that would be a lot less costly, obviously. The technology is here. As Mr. Allegretti said, it's not down the road somewhere, it's already here.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Plus the fact that we looked at it as being a lot safer because you don't have the person ashore telling you what the information that the pilot and the captain need on the bridge of the ship that's already there. The problem of that person telling you that information becomes extreme because of more opportunity to make a mistake. Where you already have the information in front of you, it seems to us to be much safer that way.
Mr. JOHNSON. And that's why you're suggesting national VTS standards?
Captain SPARKS. A silent system rather than a shore-based voiceless system, yes, sir.
Mr. JOHNSON. Right. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Sparks, you made a couple of comments that I would like to follow up on. I'm not sure what you mean at least on board the ships when you talk about English language requirements.
Captain SPARKS. There are some regulations, both international and national regulations or requirements that each crew be able to speak English in a certain way to be able to navigate.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Is the requirement that at least one person on board speaks English?
Captain SPARKS. Yes, at least one. It's kind of mixed, too. There are some different standards. And it is not 100 percent clear, to me anyway, what the requirement is. But at least one person to be able to speak English borders on silly, in my estimation anyway.
Mr. GILCHREST. So you're saying that in certain areas of the country, in certain ports the requirement is for more than one person?
Captain SPARKS. No, no. Internationally and nationally there is a difference.
Mr. GILCHREST. Oh, I see. But coming into U.S. ports, the requirement is one person.
Captain SPARKS. One person, yes, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. And that's silly because of
Captain SPARKS. It takes more than one person to navigate a vessel up and down the river.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. When you say one person, that doesn't mean that the captain speaks English and one other person; that just means one person on that boat has to pass an English proficiency test?
Captain SPARKS. Well, I don't know if he has to pass a test or not. It is taken for granted, I believe, that he or she speaks English. But it doesn't seem to be something that anybody is looking at too much.
Mr. GILCHREST. Do you have a number of people you would recommend? Should there be two, three?
Captain SPARKS. I think anybody conducting the navigation of that vessel should be able to speak English. It doesn't do me any good if I'm a pilot on the ship and only the Captain speaks English and I want to give an order to the quartermaster, if the captain steps below or he's doing something else. And he's not directly involved in the navigation of that ship, he has an officer of the deck and he has a quartermaster in most cases.
Mr. GILCHREST. So you wouldn't recommend that pilots be proficient in a dozen languages?
Captain SPARKS. It would be more than a dozen, I'm sure. That's just impractical to do that. There's a lot of languages in the world.
Mr. GILCHREST. Is your recommendation to ask the Coast Guard to make a regulation, or is your recommendation to have some legislation imposed?
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Captain SPARKS. The recommendation is to sit down and study this. I don't know the 100 percent answer. If I did, I would make a specific recommendation. It's a complicated question but something should be done. There should be some kind of a study and some kind of answers to come up with.
Mr. GILCHREST. So you're saying the situation as it now exists from your perspective is a potential safety hazard?
Captain SPARKS. Oh, yes, sir. No question about it. And problem is not less, it's becoming more of a problem because up until very recently there were foreign-flag vessels and there was the same country people on those vessels, but now it is multinational and you could have a Korean captain, you have a Croatian officer of the deck, and you have Vietnamese quartermaster. In a lot of cases, they don't speak to each other. It's very difficult on some of those ships. It's an accident waiting to happen. We've been talking about this for years but so far nobody has paid much attention to it.
Mr. GILCHREST. Maybe we need to hold a specific hearing or a meeting or something on that one particular issue.
Captain SPARKS. Yes, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. On another issue, we've heard recently from different quarters about the number of pilots needed on deck. Are there ever any circumstances where you would need more than one pilot on any one ship at any one time?
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Captain SPARKS. Yes, sir. In your port, for instance, they have two pilots on one vessel; one pilot pilots it half the distance, and then another pilot gets on and pilots the rest of the distance. You could have two on there if it's a run that requires that. And there are some very small areas that have that where, as in the Delaware Bay, for instance, there are sometimes two on board because they don't have a relay station to get off and so they trade off on their work. There can only be one person doing the job at a time, however.
Mr. GILCHREST. So you're not suggesting that there should be more than one pilot on a ship at any one time for safety purposes?
Captain SPARKS. That's correct. Doing the work, that is. It could be more than one if it's a long transit and one person working and the other relaxing.
Mr. GILCHREST. I see. Have you heard of any talk of that changing?
Captain SPARKS. No, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Marrone, do you have any comments about the English language standards?
Mr. MARRONE. No. I concur with Mr. Sparks in his comments. There are quite a variety of seamen of varying nationalities and languages on board vessels today and it's very difficult to communicate with them when they come into ports .
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Mr. GILCHREST. You made a comment in your testimony, and I'll just read it. ''We recommend that the Coast Guard ascertain appropriate manning requirements for particular types of vessels and verify required manning prior to a foreign-flag vessel's entry into U.S. ports.'' I would assume that you would want some input on the number of people on board as far as the manning requirements are concerned, or would you just want to leave this up to the Coast Guard? Are there no standards right now?
Mr. MARRONE. No, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. There are no standards?
Mr. MARRONE. There are no standards, no. A Chinese ship can come in here with four people on it. They could get it to the coast with four people and try to get to the dock with four people.
Mr. GILCHREST. Have you discussed this with the Coast Guard, your organization, at all?
Mr. MARRONE. Not formally, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. Is there something that this committee can do to facilitate a meeting with your organization and the Coast Guard to discuss this issue?
Mr. MARRONE. Yes, we'd be very interested to discuss this issue with the Coast Guard along with the English language issue. I think that would go hand-in-hand.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Do you have specific recommendations now for manning requirements on various vessel sizes?
Mr. MARRONE. Yes, we will provide that information to the committee.
[The information to be provided follows:]
Mr. GILCHREST. Would you recommend those specifically to the Coast Guard, or would you be satisfied, let's say, that the Coast Guard would look into this and given a certain period of time, six months or a year, come back with their recommendations?
Mr. MARRONE. Yes, we would welcome that approachfor the Coast Guard to review and analyze manning levels and come back with recommendationswith a request for comments and input from labor. Labor must have an opportunity to voice their opinion and recommendations.
Mr. GILCHREST. How's St. Mary's County? I heard it's growing. It's exploding I understand.
Mr. MARRONE. Yes, sir.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. Losing its rural character.
Mr. MARRONE. It is, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. I hope that doesn't happen too much longer. We'll have to get Steny Hoyer in here at the next hearing. I used to represent that area. It's a beautiful place down there.
Mr. MARRONE. Yes, sir.
Captain SPARKS. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Sparks?
Captain SPARKS. Mr. Chairman, as late as today, Admiral North has set up a meeting between himself and the APA next week to discuss this very problem.
Mr. GILCHREST. The problem of manning?
Captain SPARKS. No, the problem of English speaking.
Mr. GILCHREST. Oh, I see. Where will that meeting be?
Captain SPARKS. In my office, strangely. He asked to come to my office and sit down and discuss this particular problem.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Well, that's great. I don't know if we could have somebodywould you mind if someone either from the committee or my staff be at that meeting?
Captain SPARKS. No, sir, I wouldn't mind at all. I would welcome that.
Mr. GILCHREST. Depending on which one of us goes, if it's Maria, she is probably going to need orange juice, and if it's Rebecca, she may be okay with coffee.
Captain SPARKS. We have plenty of orange juice and plenty of coffee, too.
Mr. GILCHREST. Plenty of both. Okay.
Mr. Johnson, any other comments?
Mr. JOHNSON. No, Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Mr. GILCHREST. Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming. We enjoyed your testimony.
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Captain SPARKS. Thank you.
Mr. MARRONE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
[The prepared statements of Mr. Shuster and Mr. Oberstar follow:]
Mr. GILCHREST. The hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:52 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, to reconvene at the call of the Chair.]
COMMERICAL VESSEL SAFETY
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PUBLIC BUILDINGS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
MAY 14, 1997
Printed for the use of the
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTUCTURE
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania, Chairman
DON YOUNG, Alaska
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York
HERBERT H. BATEMAN, Virginia
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
SUSAN MOLINARI, New York
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
JAY KIM, California
STEPHEN HORN, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
TILLIE K. FOWLER, Florida
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
SUE W. KELLY, New York
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
FRANK RIGGS, California
CHARLES F. BASS, New Hampshire
ROBERT W. NEY, Ohio
JACK METCALF, Washington
JO ANN EMERSON, Missouri
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
JOSEPH R. PITTS, Pennsylvania
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
MERRILL COOK, Utah
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
CHARLES W. ''CHIP'' PICKERING, Jr., Mississippi
KAY GRANGER, Texas
JON D. FOX, Pennsylvania
THOMAS M. DAVIS, Virginia
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
J.C. WATTS, Jr., Oklahoma
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
GLENN POSHARD, Illinois
ROBERT E. (BUD) CRAMER, Jr., Alabama
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
PAT DANNER, Missouri
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
BOB FILNER, California
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
EARL BLUMENAUER, Oregon
MAX SANDLIN, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBILL PASCRELL, Jr., New Jersey
JAY W. JOHNSON, Wisconsin
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
JAMES P. McGOVERN, Massachusetts
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
NICK LAMPSON, Texas
Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Economic Development
JAY KIM, California, Chairman
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana, Vice Chairman
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
THOMAS M. DAVIS, Virginia
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
NICK LAMPSON, Texas
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Allegretti, Thomas A., President, The American Waterways Operators
Cox, Joseph J., Vice President, United States Chamber of Shipping
Finnerty, Peter, Vice President, Public Affairs, Sea-Land Services, Inc
Marrone, Nicholas, Vice President, Training, Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship, Paul Hall Maritime Center, Piney Point, Maryland, on behalf of the Seafarers International Union, accompanied by Terry Turner, National Director of Political Action and Governmental Affairs, Seafarers International Union
Martin, Cornel J., Corporate Vice President, American Classic Voyages, Inc., and Chairman of the Legislative Committee for the Passenger Vessel Association
North, Rear Admiral Robert C., Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety and Environmental Protection, U.S. Coast Guard
Sparks, Captain Jack, President, American Pilots' Association
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Clement, Hon. Bob, of Tennessee
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Oberstar, Hon. James L., of Minnesota
Shuster, Hon. Bud, of Pennsylvania
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY WITNESSES
Allegretti, Thomas A
Cox, Joseph J
Finnerty, Peter J
North, Rear Admiral Robert C
Sparks, Captain Jack
SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD
Cox, Joseph J., Vice President, United States Chamber of Shipping:
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCResponses to post hearing questions
Executive summary from the International Maritime Organization, list of IMO requirements and recommendations applicable to all ships and to certain types of ships, February 28, 1997
Marrone, Nicholas, Vice President, Seafarers Harry Lundberg School of Seamanship:
Response to question from Rep. Johnson
Response to question from Rep. Gilchrest
ADDITIONS TO THE RECORD
Committee for Private Offshore Rescue and Towing (C-PORT), Amy J. Taylor, Director of Congressional and Regulatory Affairs, statement
Maritime Cabotage Task Force, statement