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Coast Guard: Abandoned Vessels Pollute Waterways and Cost Millions to Clean Up and Remove

RCED-92-235 Published: Jul 21, 1992. Publicly Released: Jul 21, 1992.
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GAO provided information on abandoned vessels in U.S. coastal and inland waterways, focusing on: (1) the number of vessels that have been abandoned nationwide; (2) the extent of environmental problems caused by abandoned vessels and the associated costs; and (3) the adequacy of federal laws and regulations dealing with abandoned vessels.


Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Because abandoned vessels threaten the marine environment with spills of onboard petroleum and illegally dumped hazardous material, Congress may wish to consider enacting the proposed legislation to: (1) make it illegal to abandon barges in the nation's waterways and provide appropriate administrative fines and penalties as a deterrent; and (2) require registration and permanent marking of all barges.
Closed – Implemented
Legislation in line with this GAO recommendation was enacted November 4, 1993.
Congress may wish to consider enacting additional legislation making the abandonment of other types of vessels illegal.
Closed – Not Implemented
Legislation in line with the GAO recommendation was enacted November 4, 1992. It addressed barges but not other types of vessels. Additional legislation is unlikely.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop an accurate inventory of abandoned vessels and their location to facilitate the capability of both agencies to address the problems posed by such vessels.
Closed – Implemented
The Coast Guard and the Corps of Engineers have developed an inventory of abandoned barges. The Coast Guard also has instituted policies to ensure that the inventory is periodically updated. The inventory will be used by both agencies to address problems posed by abandoned vessels.

Full Report

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BargesEnvironmental lawEnvironmental monitoringHarborsHazardous substancesInland waterwaysLiability (legal)Proposed legislationWater pollution controlWater transportationWatercraft