Coast Guard:

Inspection Program Improvements Are Under Way to Help Detect Unsafe Tankers

RCED-92-23: Published: Oct 8, 1991. Publicly Released: Nov 8, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the effectiveness of the Coast Guard's inspection program for tankers carrying oil and other hazardous cargo, focusing on: (1) conditions and problems identified by the Coast Guard that are affecting its tanker inspection program; and (2) actions being taken or considered by the Coast Guard to improve the inspection program.

GAO found that: (1) Coast Guard inspections have not always been reliable in detecting unsafe U.S. tankers due to such problems as insufficient staffing, inexperienced inspectors, and limited inspection procedures; (2) inspections have often failed to identify serious problems with foreign-flagged tankers due to insufficient inspector training and efforts to reduce costs; and (3) program officials have taken actions to increase the number of inspectors, started a program to help ensure that experienced inspectors inspect older and other potentially unsafe vessels, and started an international dialogue on actions needed to improve the inspection and safety of vessels worldwide.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coast Guard has developed numerous ways to obtain input from industry, including receiving input from 12 advisory boards, attending local industry meetings, receiving public comments on rulemaking, and soliciting input from the International Maritime Organization.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to obtain timely input from industry on major program changes, such as the Merchant Vessel Incentive Inspection Program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coast Guard has developed a comprehensive tracking system to track recommendations from various studies and reports relating to marine safety. The system was put into place in December 1991, and will be updated continuously.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to develop a comprehensive plan that describes major program changes and procedures for ensuring the implementation of appropriate recommendations from studies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coast Guard has collected data on the results of its marine inspections. To improve its ability to evaluate and manage the inspection and other marine safety programs, the Coast Guard has developed an improved tool, called quarterly data matrices, for providing managers with important information on program activities. It is also continuing to seek improved MOEs through workshops and studies.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to develop procedures to review and evaluate the results of major actions taken.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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