Coast Guard:

Enforcement Under MARPOL V Convention on Pollution Expanded, Although Problems Remain

RCED-95-143: Published: May 30, 1995. Publicly Released: Jun 6, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on U.S. participation in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL V), which provides for the mitigation of uncontrolled ocean dumping of garbage and plastics, focusing on: (1) the Coast Guard's progress in implementing MARPOL V; (2) whether enforcement personnel are being utilized for MARPOL-related purposes; and (3) the Coast Guard's educational and outreach efforts to improve compliance with MARPOL V.

GAO found that: (1) the Coast Guard stepped up its MARPOL V enforcement efforts after congressional criticism in 1990 and 1992; (2) the number of cases involving MARPOL V violations has steadily increased from 16 in 1989 to 311 in 1994; (3) fewer than 10 percent of all cases have resulted in any penalties assessed to the violator, although many cases are still being processed; (4) although there are no accurate means to determine whether the Coast Guard is fully utilizing the additional resources that Congress provided for enforcing MARPOL V, nearly all the designated enforcement positions are filled; (5) in 1994, the Coast Guard's education and outreach efforts for MARPOL V expanded from targeting commercial shippers to other groups, such as boaters and fishermen; (6) the Coast Guard initiated the SeaPartners program to provide marine education to various participants, but it is unknown how the program will contribute to MARPOL V; and (7) the Coast Guard has revised its strategy for SeaPartners in fiscal year 1995 to clarify its mission.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coast Guard concurred with the recommendation and produced a standardized MARPOL V inspection checklist in July 1996.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant, Coast Guard, to develop and put into force a standardized MARPOL V inspection checklist for use by its enforcement personnel. Doing so will improve the Coast Guard's ability to identify and properly document violations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to Coast Guard, it has initiated the formation of the Civil Penalty Coordination Committee to serve as a cross-program coordination effort between the Marine Safety and Operations offices to provide guidance and oversight for civil penalty activities. The Committee has already identified some existing policies, procedures, and regulations that it will revise and update.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant, Coast Guard, to develop procedures to ensure that case feedback from hearing officers, including the rationale for decisions made, is provided to districts and forwarded to local units in a timely manner.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coast Guard and APHIS met in October 1995. They reviewed each others' inspection procedures and discussed information needed on APHIS' boarding form to help the Coast Guard process violations. They plan to continue to coordinate periodically.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant, Coast Guard, to explore with the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) areas of mutual interest and ways to improve cooperation between the Coast Guard and APHIS on enforcing MARPOL V.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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