US Senate Passes Coast Guard Authorization Act

On 2 April 2004, the US Senate passed the US Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2004.  The next step will involve resolving the differences between this legislation and the version adopted by the US House of Representatives.  The major difference between the two bills focuses on security plans for foreign vessels subject to the ISPS Code.

The House bill would, in accordance with Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA), require a non-US vessel to submit its security plan to the USCG for review and approval.

The Senate bill would deem a vessel to be in compliance with the security plan provisions of the MTSA if it has a security plan that has been approved in accordance with the ISPS Code and if it operates in compliance with the plan.

INTERTANKO supports the Senate position on this issue.

In addition to the proposed amendment to the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) the Senate version of the Coast Guard Authorization Act has other elements of interest to the INTERTANKO membership:

  • The bill would amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) to require non-tank vessels of 400 gross tons or greater to have vessel response plans (VRPs) similar to those required of tank vessels.
  • It would require a report on: (1) the domestic and international implications of changing the phase-out date for single hull tank vessels from 2015 to 2010; (2) the costs and benefits of requiring monitoring systems on tank vessels; and (3) a review of safety issues relating to tank barges. 
  • The 2004 Act would also authorise the Coast Guard to issue regulations to expand the current list of hazardous substances, for which the Coast Guard may require response plans, to other marine chemical cargoes beyond those currently listed under the FWPCA.  It would expand the group of chemical cargoes for which the Coast Guard may require response plans under OPA 90 by including in that group the Noxious Liquid Substances ("NLSs") regulated under Annex II of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78). According to the Coast Guard, of the 782 internationally recognized NLSs, the FWPCA list encompasses only 134 of these (bulk) cargoes, and these 134 cargoes do not represent the cargoes posing the greatest threat to the marine environment. The Act aims to harmonise the domestic list of regulated bulk cargoes with the internationally maintained NLS list. The proposed legislation would not mandate, but would authorise the Coast Guard to issue regulations to require an owner or operator of a tank vessel, non-tank vessel, or facility to prepare a response plan for responding to the maximum extent practicable, to a worst case discharge, or a substantial threat of such discharge, of a NLS.  The OPA 90 Hazardous Substance Response Plan (HSRP) regulations are currently on hold, pending clarification of this and other issues.  This may expedite the publication of a final rule and implementation of these regulations. 

Contact: Margaret Doyle