Coast Guard:

Preparation and Response for Oil Spills in Philadelphia and New York Ports

RCED-90-83: Published: Jan 26, 1990. Publicly Released: Feb 5, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the: (1) Philadelphia and New York ports' oil spill response preparation and capabilities; (2) Coast Guard authority to manage responses for the ports; and (3) measures that would help prevent major oil spills from occurring in the future.

GAO found that: (1) neither the Coast Guard nor industry had adequate response capabilities or preparations for oil spills of over 100,000 gallons; (2) tankers transiting the Philadelphia and New York ports were not required to have oil spill response contingency plans; (3) although the Coast Guard's revised plan for Philadelphia realized that larger oil spills could occur, its local resources could not effectively handle spills of more than 50,000 gallons, and neither the industry's nor the New York Coast Guard's plans specifically identified spill sizes or what personnel and equipment should respond to spills of various sizes; (4) the Coast Guard believed that it lacked authority to require private ship owners, operators, and industry cooperatives to have contingency plans for dealing with oil spills or to ensure that industry had adequate response preparations; (5) recent legislation required all owners and operators of tank vessels carrying oil in U.S. waters to prepare and submit contingency plans to the Coast Guard; (6) the responses to the Presidente Rivera and Exxon Valdez spills indicated a need to improve oil recovery equipment, since current technology could typically expect to recover only 10 to 15 percent of an oil spill; and (7) recent experiences indicate the Vessel Traffic Service System's importance in preventing vessel groundings or collisions that could result in oil spills.

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