The Coast Guard needs to determine the impact and effectiveness of its Streamlined Inspection Program (SIP). That is the title of a recently released report by the Office of the U.S. Inspector General (OIG), which conducted an audit to determine the extent to which enrolled vessels comply with the SIP. 

The OIG essentially made three observations: SIP has not established or implemented key Performance Indicators, SIP may not be operating as intended, and SIP’s impact on the Coast Guard’s mission success is unknown.”

While this is probably not good news for the Coast Guard or for the SIP, I believe that much of this negativity is rooted in a lack of understanding, by both the Coast Guard and industry, of the actual benefits of the program. My company, BB Riverboats, joined SIP in 1998 with one vessel, the M/V River Queen. By 2000 our entire fleet was enrolled in the program. My plan is to enroll our two harbor towboats in SIP in 2024.

Why am I a participant in SIP? Because it has helped me and my company establish a system to keep my vessels in a constant state of regulatory compliance. Thus, it also results in a higher level of safety for my passengers and crew. Another benefit is better communications with Coast Guard inspectors along with a shared confidence that we are all reading from the same regulatory page. SIP-enrolled vessels continuously meet a higher level of safety and inspection readiness.

Why has SIP not caught on? Because the Coast Guard has not uniformly gotten behind or promoted SIP. After all, if properly implemented, the program can lessen the burden on an already stressed Coast Guard inspector corps. It would be a huge time saver for them, a manpower saver for everyone involved, and I believe the U.S. commercial fleet would be safer and better managed.

SIP is still worthwhile, despite the findings of the OIG report. This spring, I plan to hold a companywide seminar on SIP so even our service staff can understand the vessel safety responsibility we have as vessel operators. It will also help my staff understand how this program elevates safety. I am proud of what we have accomplished with SIP and I will continue to promote the program throughout the maritime industry.