Coast Guard may consider new ship rules

Erica Werner of Associated Press interviewed the Commandant on his way back to Washington after spending 24 hours in San Francisco reviewing the spill operations. The interview is available at SignOnSanDiego.com but here’s a few highlights.

On public notification:

After spending about 24 hours in San Francisco viewing the bay by air and meeting with emergency crews, lawmakers and city officials, Allen stood by his initial defense of the Coast Guards response to the spill. His agency has come under fire principally for a time lag of several hours between when officials realized the spill was 58,000 gallons – not 140 gallons as initially reported – and when that information was relayed to the public.

Allen reiterated that his impression was that crews were working so hard to respond to the spill that notifying city leaders and the public about its magnitude fell through the cracks.

“How do you handle a low-visibility situation when you can’t ascertain how much oil’s been released – that’s a knotty problem,”

Even if the agency had simply stated that an unknown amount of oil had spilled, then later released the accurate figure, “it wouldn’t have been seen as somehow a betrayal of trust,” Allen noted.

Where are the communications logs?

Allen opened himself up to more questions of credibility by telling the public Sunday night that he wanted records of communications between the crew of the Cosco Busan and the Coast Guard’s Vessel Traffic Service released within 24 hours. The NTSB (which is conducting an investigation into the allision) then took control of the transcripts and audio and has refused to make them public or say when it will.

New Ship Movement Rules Possible:

The Coast Guard may consider restricting movement of ships in heavy fog. “I think controls on ships in low visibility probably is something you could look at.” He said the benefit of any new regulations would have to be weighed against the economic costs on the shipping industry.

Another possibility would be to develop a “risk matrix” that could trigger controls on movement of ships when a number of factors such as weather, tide, port congestion, etc., added up to a risky situation.

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