State Department:

Problems in Compiling List of Countries Restricting Longshore Activities

NSIAD-94-97: Published: Feb 3, 1994. Publicly Released: Feb 18, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of State's criteria and methodology for compiling the list of countries that prohibit crewmembers aboard U.S. vessels from performing longshore activities in U.S. ports.

GAO found that: (1) in December 1992, State published a list of 63 countries that restrict longshore work by crewmembers aboard U.S. vessels; (2) although State's criteria for placing countries on the list depend upon the host government's restrictions on longshore work, it does not place countries on the list if they have not enforced their restrictions on longshore activities; (3) although State's narrow interpretation of the legislation is legally supportable, its position on nonenforcement and ship calls is not supported by the legislation; (4) State collects its information on the host countries' laws, regulations, and practices affecting longshore work through its overseas posts; (5) some of State's decisions on individual countries appear arbitrary because the information it collects does not enable it to fairly apply its criteria for placing countries on the list, have a uniform reporting format, and identify the frequency of port calls by U.S. vessels; and (6) State officials have acknowledged that there are difficulties in obtaining the necessary data for determining which countries should be included on the list.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The congressional leadership has changed since this report was issued. One of the requesters is no longer in the House and the other requester is no longer chairman. Action on this recommendation is not likely.

    Matter: If Congress does not believe a country's restrictive practices on longshore activities should refer only to those that are approved or sanctioned by the host country government, as the Department of State has determined, then it may wish to amend section 258 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, to indicate that all practices--government approved or not--that have the effect of restricting longshore activities by U.S. crewmembers require that the country be included on the State Department's list of restrictive countries.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department is clarifying its criteria on restrictive longshore practices based on responses to a questionnaire issued on June 1994. State received a 90% response rate from the posts. The revised list will be published in the October 1995 Federal Register notice.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should add to the list those countries with restrictions on longshore work that were omitted on the basis that no U.S. ships had called on their ports within the previous year or that they did not enforce their restrictions.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The State Department has established a database to track the status of replies to the structured questionnaire issued in June 1994. State is using the information to issue reminders to the posts with overdue replies.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should improve the methodology used to compile the list of restrictive countries by tasking the Director, Office of Maritime and Land Transport, to develop a follow-up procedure to ensure that reports are received from all tasked overseas posts and to obtain any necessary clarification.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department has prepared a revised list of countries with restrictive longshore practices based on responses to a questionnaire issued in June 1994. State received a 90% response rate from the posts. The revised list will be published in the October 1995 Federal Register notice.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should improve the methodology used to compile the list of restrictive countries by tasking the Director, Office of Maritime and Land Transport, to obtain information on all seaport countries or clearly identify in the Federal Register those countries for which no information was obtained and the reason why.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The June 1994 cable issued to all diplomatic posts requesting specific information on restricted longshore activities included a structured questionnaire and instructions for respondents to provide a separate answer for each question.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should improve the methodology used to compile the list of restrictive countries by tasking the Director, Office of Maritime and Land Transport, to design a standardized reporting format to facilitate analysis.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 1994, State issued a cable to all diplomatic posts, which included a revised questionnaire requesting information about specific types of restrictions on longshore activities by U.S. mariners. For example, the questionnaire includes questions regarding work or residence permits required for U.S. mariners to perform longshore activities; specific longshore activities that are restricted; laws, regulations, and collective bargaining agreements that restrict or have the effect of restricting U.S. mariners from performing longshore activities; the role of the government in enforcement; and whether U.S. ships have called on host ports since January 1, 1994.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should improve the methodology used to compile the list of restrictive countries by tasking the Director, Office of Maritime and Land Transport, to determine specific data requirements and develop appropriate questions designed to solicit required information.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department plans to include an enhanced discussion of the relevant criteria used to determine the list of countries that prohibit longshore work by U.S. mariners in a Federal Register notice orginally scheduled for publication in December 1995. The Department has received formal comments on its interpretation of the statute and is preparing a memorandum with recommendations for the Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs. Publication is now scheduled for mid-October 1995.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should improve the methodology used to compile the list of restrictive countries by tasking the Director, Office of Maritime and Land Transport, to clearly and thoroughly state the criteria for determining which countries to place on the list.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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