USCG Plan is soft, OIG report says

The Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Performance Plan has “positive attributes,” but it’s missing yardsticks to measure results, a new federal review concludes.

Without these critical elements neither the Coast Guard nor the industry knows what to expect and when, according to a report released this week by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Homeland Security.

For example, the Tow Safe Initiative calls for the Coast Guard to strengthen partnership efforts and promote risk reduction but the plan lacks details on how to accomplish those goals.

“Without performance targets, milestones, and completion dates,” the Coast Guard can’t tell whether it met its objectives and met them on schedule, the report said. So the agency should “modify goals, objectives, and courses of action into quantifiable measures.”

The Coast Guard agreed with the recommendations and promised more concrete goals in its 2012-2017 plan.

The five year blueprint (2009-2014) critiqued in the audit was a milestone in the Coast Guard marine safety program, which had been short on money and expertise. Relationships with mariners and operators were strained, licensing and rulemaking delayed and handling of investigations criticized. Congress threatened to shift marine safety functions out of the Coast Guard.

Retired Commandant Thad Allen promised changes in what the workboat industry considers the Coast Guard’s most important mission — reducing mariner deaths and injuries, passenger deaths and injuries, and the number of collisions and groundings in waters under its jurisdiction.

Reforms included improved marine safety services, better trained personnel and beefed up communications with the marine industry. In addition, mariner document services were consolidated into a central location in West Virginia to streamline document processing.

The OIG review is especially timely as the Coast Guard is expected to soon release its towing vessel inspection Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The final rule covering the country’s 6,400 towing vessels is due about a year later.

For the complete OIG report, see:

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