Coast Guard Funding Bill Sent to Full Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation unanimously reported S. 1892, the Coast Guard Authorization Act, today. The bill, which authorizes approximately $8.2 billion for fiscal year 2008, would create new programs and grant additional authorities that increase the Coast Guard’s ability to protect homeland security, marine safety, fisheries, and environmental resources.“Each day, the men and women of the Coast Guard awake with the same mission – to save lives. This bill reflects our commitment to providing the tools these men and women need to succeed at this critical mission and to do so much more, including protecting our nation’s ports and natural resources,” said Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and a cosponsor of the Coast Guard Authorization Act.

Introduced on July 26, 2007 by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), the Chair and Ranking Member of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee, respectively, and also cosponsored by Committee Vice Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), and Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Trent Lott (R-Miss), S. 1892 would:

  • Clarify and strengthen the Coast Guard’s ability to bolster the security of U.S. ports-of-entry and the coast against unlawful entry, including increasing criminal penalties to any person (including an alien) engaged in illegal alien smuggling in the maritime environment.
  • Strengthen federal protections to prevent terrorist attacks on facilities and vessels that transport, handle, and store especially hazardous cargoes (EHC’s) to ensure the safety and security of the U.S. economy from the potential hazards of high risk cargo transported by ship.
  • Authorize the Coast Guard to align its senior command structure with that of the other armed forces, and improve the quality of life for servicemen and women through reimbursement of medical-related travel expenses, legal assistance, and emergency leave.
  • Enhance humanitarian relief and protection for seafarers abandoned in the United States, and provide support to seafarers who are witnesses to maritime-related crimes, including those who are witnesses in Coast Guard investigations and subsequent proceedings.
  • Encourage international efforts and improve coordination with tribal governments to prevent oil pollution and create a more efficient response to oil pollution incidents.
  • Require the Coast Guard to acquire or construct two new polar class icebreakers and, if they are not operational by enactment, to return to operation the existing polar class icebreakers the Coast Guard maintains.
  • Ensure that port facilities provide procedures for facilitating shore leave for ship personnel or personnel changes for crew members, including representatives of seafarers’ welfare and labor organizations.
  • Establish rules for future legislative vessel conveyances including a requirement that the conveyance recipient not sell the vessel without first offering it back to the government, and establish civil penalties for violation of the terms of a vessel conveyance.
  • Require the Coast Guard to maintain the LORAN-C navigation system, which is used by general aviators, recreational boaters, commercial fisherman, and the military as a back up to the satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS).

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