After veering heavily toward security after 9/11, the U.S. Coast Guard is “back in the living room” with its maritime partners. That was one of the messages delivered yesterday by Commandant Paul F. Zukunft at the Passenger Vessel Association’s annual meeting in Long Beach, Calif.
Zukunft, who was named commandant eight months ago, told passenger vessel operators that of all the sectors it regulates, he was very proud to address them “because of the [excellent] safety record that you enjoy.”
On marine safety, he said he’d like to see the same “closed-loop community” that exists within its aviation community. Pilots go to flight school, get trained, go to an air station, and then for the brunt of the next eight or 10 years they spend most of their time in a cockpit. “We have not done that with our marine safety program and it’s about time we did so. We need to be in lockstep with the industries we regulate.”
Zukunft said they must get to know the passenger vessel industry “inside and out, and not simply as someone who writes a ticket. We need to understand the risks involved in keeping your programs viable and that we don’t become an impediment to your business.”
The commandant also touched on the Coast Guard budget and said that the agency is a “good investment.” The Coast Guard is “the silent service” and with its 88,000 personnel, is much smaller today than it was before 9/11. “We’ve taken these annual bites out of our active duty force. But as you heard, nothing is shrinking. The demand for our services continues to grow.”
Zukunft said that despite this the agency has been a “pretty darn good steward of the platforms that we have been entrusted to maintain.”
The commandant praised the passenger vessel industry and acknowledged the close and mutually beneficial relationship the Coast Guard has with passenger vessel operators. This, both Zukunft and the PVA hope, will continue to strengthen.