2
Federal, State, and Private Roles

Maritime commerce supports both international trade and national security and, therefore, has long been considered essential to the nation's well-being. Historically, the federal government has provided and operated aids to navigation, developed and maintained waterways, and exercised oversight over matters of maritime safety. Today, safety—including protection of the environment—is considered the principal concern of the federal government. Efficiency is most often considered the concern of the commercial sector and, therefore, less deserving of federal funding (NRC, 1996a). However, defining the appropriate role for government can be difficult because of the often blurry line between safety and efficiency.

Policy decisions about federal support for services are not always based on objective analyses of their impact on the nation as a whole, or even on analyses of the beneficiaries of a particular service and, therefore, who should pay for it. The rationale for policy decisions tends to be more subjective. An example is the reduction in funds for charting the nation's waterways at the same time the overall funding for NOAA, the responsible agency, was increased (NRC, 1994a, 1994b)1 and despite the broad international recognition that up-to-date charting is critical to improving waterway safety. Because of these budget cutbacks, some maritime safety information systems have not been deployed, upgraded, or operated (NRC, 1996a). The obvious negative effects on safety have raised questions about the federal government's fulfillment of its responsibilities in the national interest.

Nevertheless, cutbacks in the federal budget can also be seen as part of the larger goal of transferring some responsibility to the state and local levels or the private sector (NRC, 1996a). Although the merits of this goal were not assessed by the committee, this policy should be scrutinized carefully with regard to its short-term and long-term consequences. Recently, insufficient federal funding has led to efforts by government agencies to secure private support, through public-private partnerships, for some systems developed by the federal government. For example, PORTS (the physical oceanographic real-time system)2 was developed by NOAA and installed by the government in several major ports for demonstration purposes. But local private interests must now find ways to fund its continued operation and maintenance.

This chapter discusses the best way to achieve an appropriate balance between public and private responsibilities. Topics include the relationship between maritime safety and efficiency, the increased importance of nonfederal stakeholders, the evolution of role sharing, and the need for strong federal leadership.

Relationship Between Safety and Efficiency

At the macro level, maritime safety and efficiency are often intertwined, and when the current study began the committee intended to examine opportunities for improving both safety and efficiency. On closer examination, however, differences emerged. The development and implementation of information systems designed to promote efficiency appeared to be progressing satisfactorily because electronic cargo-tracking and other information systems, which are supported by the commercial sector, have been proliferating throughout the industry. At the same time, the federal government has been backing away from funding systems that would clearly improve safety. The committee, therefore,

1  

The budget for nautical charting (taking inflation into account) declined by nearly 50 percent between the mid-1970s and the early 1990s; during the same period, NOAA's fleet of hydrographic survey ships declined from 11 to 5 (NOS, 1998).

2  

PORTS gathers wind, current, wave, and other data from sensors installed on buoys and transmits the information in real-time to central stations and individual users. System locations are noted in Chapter 3.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 13
--> 2 Federal, State, and Private Roles Maritime commerce supports both international trade and national security and, therefore, has long been considered essential to the nation's well-being. Historically, the federal government has provided and operated aids to navigation, developed and maintained waterways, and exercised oversight over matters of maritime safety. Today, safety—including protection of the environment—is considered the principal concern of the federal government. Efficiency is most often considered the concern of the commercial sector and, therefore, less deserving of federal funding (NRC, 1996a). However, defining the appropriate role for government can be difficult because of the often blurry line between safety and efficiency. Policy decisions about federal support for services are not always based on objective analyses of their impact on the nation as a whole, or even on analyses of the beneficiaries of a particular service and, therefore, who should pay for it. The rationale for policy decisions tends to be more subjective. An example is the reduction in funds for charting the nation's waterways at the same time the overall funding for NOAA, the responsible agency, was increased (NRC, 1994a, 1994b)1 and despite the broad international recognition that up-to-date charting is critical to improving waterway safety. Because of these budget cutbacks, some maritime safety information systems have not been deployed, upgraded, or operated (NRC, 1996a). The obvious negative effects on safety have raised questions about the federal government's fulfillment of its responsibilities in the national interest. Nevertheless, cutbacks in the federal budget can also be seen as part of the larger goal of transferring some responsibility to the state and local levels or the private sector (NRC, 1996a). Although the merits of this goal were not assessed by the committee, this policy should be scrutinized carefully with regard to its short-term and long-term consequences. Recently, insufficient federal funding has led to efforts by government agencies to secure private support, through public-private partnerships, for some systems developed by the federal government. For example, PORTS (the physical oceanographic real-time system)2 was developed by NOAA and installed by the government in several major ports for demonstration purposes. But local private interests must now find ways to fund its continued operation and maintenance. This chapter discusses the best way to achieve an appropriate balance between public and private responsibilities. Topics include the relationship between maritime safety and efficiency, the increased importance of nonfederal stakeholders, the evolution of role sharing, and the need for strong federal leadership. Relationship Between Safety and Efficiency At the macro level, maritime safety and efficiency are often intertwined, and when the current study began the committee intended to examine opportunities for improving both safety and efficiency. On closer examination, however, differences emerged. The development and implementation of information systems designed to promote efficiency appeared to be progressing satisfactorily because electronic cargo-tracking and other information systems, which are supported by the commercial sector, have been proliferating throughout the industry. At the same time, the federal government has been backing away from funding systems that would clearly improve safety. The committee, therefore, 1   The budget for nautical charting (taking inflation into account) declined by nearly 50 percent between the mid-1970s and the early 1990s; during the same period, NOAA's fleet of hydrographic survey ships declined from 11 to 5 (NOS, 1998). 2   PORTS gathers wind, current, wave, and other data from sensors installed on buoys and transmits the information in real-time to central stations and individual users. System locations are noted in Chapter 3.

OCR for page 13
--> decided to focus its limited time and resources on opportunities for enhancing maritime safety, which emerged as the more serious public problem. The committee's next challenge was to differentiate safety issues from efficiency issues, or at least to define their relationship, for purposes of this analysis. Is a safer port also a more efficient port? During numerous meetings and site visits, the committee observed that port stakeholders generally support proposals that would enhance safety—but often consider them too expensive, especially if they must be supported by user fees. Port directors and shippers generally want to maximize cargo efficiency for economic reasons and, therefore, prefer that safety regulations not be too onerous, which sometimes conflicts with the USCG's attempts to carry out its mission. Private companies, however, also recognize that ports and companies with reputations for frequent accidents may lose their public stature, as well as business. Thus, there seems to be a useful and creative tension between the USCG's efforts to promote safety and the private sector's efforts to promote efficiency, which could lead to an appropriate balance between them. There also appears to be a dynamic relationship between safety and efficiency, although it is difficult to define. The committee did not dwell on this issue but believes it deserves further attention. However, at least one area of overlap was noted. The implications for both safety and efficiency of tracking hazardous cargo has not been fully recognized by the federal government. For more than 10 years, the U.S. Customs Service has maintained an automated system that allows carriers to transmit electronic manifest data on all imported cargo while en route to the United States so the Customs Service can determine, prior to arrival, whether to examine the cargo or release it. Almost 75 percent3 of ships entering U.S. ports now use this system, which is linked to more than 1,500 trade participants, including ocean carriers, data processing centers, port authorities, and inland ports (Aylward, 1996). The USCG, however, does not use this system for tracking hazardous cargo, relying instead on paper records and port-specific notification of emergency response teams (see Appendix C and Appendix D). The committee has heard anecdotal reports of instances in which major ports had to be closed for hours at a time while mysterious hazardous cargoes were being identified. The USCG might be able to use information about hazardous cargoes from the electronic manifests in the U.S. Customs database in near real-time if certain adjustments were made in the system. Although previous discussions of this possibility failed to produce a solution (see Box 2-1), the issue is important enough to warrant further examination in another venue. The confidentiality of the data probably could be maintained, but substantial funding might be required to establish a USCG system that could perform necessary translations and keep track of the data. BOX 2-1 Tracking Hazardous Materials Carriers, terminal operators, port authorities, and service centers provide automated manifest data to the U.S. Customs Service for cargo arriving in, or departing from, U.S. ports. In recent years, the USCG and Customs Service have explored the feasibility of using these data for hazardous material notifications but have concluded that the data lacked sufficient detail for this immediate application (Kim Santos, Project Leader for Field Operations, U.S. Customs, personal communication, July 6, 1998). Some of the Customs Service data provide records for hazardous material descriptions and class code entries. However, reporting the quantity, weight, and other details of a cargo is not currently mandatory, so these data have limited value to the USCG. Another possible mechanism for hazardous material notification is the Ship Notice/Manifest transaction created for the procurement process of the Electronic Commerce Program Office of the U.S. Department of Defense. From these data, a detailed list of the contents of a shipment and descriptions of their physical characteristics can be obtained and sent to one or more selected receivers. Hazardous material code qualifiers allow shippers to use U.S. Department of Transportation or IMO identifiers as cargo descriptors. If the Customs Service were to integrate this transaction set into its new database, the Automated Commercial Environment, then a common mechanism might be established for reporting details on cargo shipments that could satisfy the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the USCG. Growing Importance of Nonfederal Stakeholders The convergence of public and private roles in maritime transportation is based on common interests, four of which are pertinent to the present study: ensuring the safety of lives and cargo, avoiding 3   This figure was obtained from the U.S. Customs Web site (http://customs.ustreas.gov), August 1998.

OCR for page 13
--> environmental damage, reducing the costs of accidents, and promoting law enforcement and national security moving vessels and cargo in and out of ports efficiently under all conditions4 ensuring the smooth flow of goods from one mode of transport to another to save time and reduce costs fostering economic growth, creating jobs and prosperity in the process Historically, issues of safe navigation have been the exclusive province of seamen, ship owners, and government. Today, a great many other stakeholders are actively involved. In response to a series of disastrous events, most notably the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989, the general public is now demanding a voice in ensuring that the movement of potentially polluting cargoes is as safe as possible. The public demand has been manifested in a number of ways, such as the expanded role of state governments in navigational matters. Four state-level organizations dealing with marine safety issues are: (1) the States-B.C. Task Force (which coordinates measures for the prevention of marine pollution and response activities of the four West Coast states [California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska] and the Canadian province of British Columbia); (2) the Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response in California; (3) the Spill Prevention Preparedness and Response Division5 of the Washington State Department of Ecology; and (4) the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Public port authorities also maintain high profiles, often because their charters extend significantly beyond their responsibilities for piers and wharfs to acting as catalysts for economic development for entire regions. The Port of Seattle, for example, functions in that role for all of King County, a geographic area larger than some Eastern states. Because the port is supported by taxes levied on all county property owners, concerns about port activities and issues affecting the port are much more widespread than one might expect. Vessel operating companies also have a large stake in navigational issues because they bear the costs of terminal development and operation. For example, a container line that makes a multimillion-dollar investment in a state-of-the-art terminal would rightly demand a voice in decisions about the navigational systems that support vessel movement to and from that terminal. Petroleum carriers have even more reason to participate both to protect their investment and to avoid delays in transits to and from refineries that could affect public health and welfare. Deep-sea operators carrying containers and petroleum recognize that safe passage in and out of harbors is a responsibility shared by vessel crews and shore-supplied services, such as VTS. BOX 2-2 Listening to Stakeholders Federal agencies held a total of seven listening sessions in the spring of 1998 at various locations along the U.S. coasts, Great Lakes, and inland waterways to gather input from state and local governments, industry, waterways users, service providers, and other interested parties. These sessions were part of an attempt initiated in late 1997 by the USCG and MARAD, in cooperation with approximately 10 other units of the federal government, to support a safe, environmentally sound, world-class waterways system that would improve U.S. global competitiveness and national security. The results of the regional sessions were presented at a national meeting in November 1998, when critical issues deserving the attention of national policy makers were identified. The initiative is expected to improve coordination and cooperation among all stakeholders. Federal agencies plan to continue this exchange of information at periodic future sessions. Overall, the number and diversity of stakeholders—including both regular users of ports and waterways and the general public, often represented by government agencies—participating in local, regional, and national planning and other activities that affect maritime commerce have grown considerably. Examples include the national dialog on VTS initiated by the USCG and the seven public "listening sessions" held in the spring of 1998 by the USCG and cooperating federal agencies (see Box 2-2). On the one hand, user involvement is now considered an essential element for marshaling support and funding to establish and operate navigation systems, and broad stakeholder participation expands the base of support. On the other hand, stakeholder participation tends to make the process arduous and frustrating because their input can be emotional or self-serving. Arguments and evidence provided by stakeholders must be carefully assessed to avoid giving undue weight to narrow, parochial positions. Stakeholder participation should be related to sources of funding; for example, if tax revenues are used to fund services, then taxpayers (i.e., the general public) have a right to participate in the decision-making process. A recent report on risk management advocates a 4   Although all-weather operations is a goal for certain ports that must maintain tight schedules, it may not always be economically feasible. 5   This division was created in July 1997 when the Washington State Office of Marine Safety was merged into the Department of Ecology.

OCR for page 13
--> thoughtful balance between analysis and deliberation in risky enterprises (NRC, 1996b). Although it is important that all stakeholders participate in the decision-making process, the federal government is the only entity responsible for safeguarding national interests, enforcing maritime law, negotiating and carrying out international agreements, and responding to the wishes of the entire citizenry (as represented by the U.S. Congress). At the same time, the uncertainty of budgets and the necessity of meeting budget priorities have made it difficult for federal agencies to enact and carry out consistent policies. Evolution of Public-Private Role Sharing The federal government has taken a strong leadership role in the development, funding, and operation of navigation safety systems, whereas the private sector has led the development and operation of cargo management systems. Whenever these two areas intersect or gaps appear, public-private partnerships, a concept supported by both users and outside analyses, have been the solution of choice (GAO, 1996; NRC, 1996a). The weaknesses in the present arrangement, noted earlier, include inadequate budgets for federal agencies to carry out their safety responsibilities and the tendency to develop stand-alone information systems featuring limited collaboration and information sharing (e.g., the general failure by federal agencies to provide existing electronic data on hazardous cargoes to appropriate public safety offices). Public-private partnerships, a concept that remains in its infancy in the maritime arena, have also experienced some "growing pains," and representatives of private-sector stakeholders have raised a number of concerns about these arrangements. The most frequent complaint is that federal agencies cannot make long-term commitments of resources to partnerships. Another common concern is that private-sector interests may be overridden by federal goals. Some of these concerns could be addressed by clarifying how partnerships should function and establishing formal definitions of public and private roles. Experience with successful partnerships will also raise confidence levels. The classic example of a successful public-private partnership continues to be the VTIS serving the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor complex, a cooperative effort of the local marine exchange, the state of California, and the USCG. This partnership was described in the committee's interim report (NRC, 1996a). Finally, problems have also arisen about role sharing among federal agencies. Some members of the user community expressed concerns to the committee about the federal emphasis on VTSs (a responsibility of the USCG), which seemed to obscure the need for a more basic tool—accurate nautical charts (a responsibility of NOAA). These private-sector stakeholders believe that federal money would be better spent on improvements other than VTSs. In the National Dialog on Vessel Traffic Services (1997), the need for other types of systems was also emphasized. The frequency with which these concerns have been raised underscores the reality that federal allocations have not been well coordinated among agencies. In an attempt to address this problem, the Interagency Committee on Waterways Management (ICWM) was established in 1995 to identify, evaluate, develop, and promote the implementation of federal policies and programs to ensure effective waterways management.6 The ICWM seems to be an appropriate vehicle for dealing with the issues raised in the present report because its vision calls for "federal infrastructure,7 systems, and services that will fully support the current use and anticipated growth in the use of the waterways with a high degree of efficiency and safety." In addition, the ICWM's objectives include promoting safe, environmentally sound use of waterways and coordinating overlapping management functions. The committee, which meets three times a year, is chaired by the USCG assistant commandant for marine safety and environmental protection. The members include representatives from the U.S. departments of Commerce, Defense, Interior, and Transportation, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. Need for Strong Federal Leadership As the roles of various stakeholders are being sorted out, it is important that the federal responsibility, which is broader and more complex than is usually appreciated, be kept in mind. The role of the federal government in maritime safety is broad and well established. Most ocean and inland shipping is international or interstate, and there is a vested national interest in ensuring economic, environmental, and national security. A strong federal role is also essential for mariners if they are to benefit from a common operating environment in national and international waters. All stakeholders recognize the dual need for port-specific systems tailored to local conditions and national standards that would enable the same equipment to be used in any port or waterway (National Dialog on Vessel Traffic Services, 1997). Areas of government responsibilities are described below: Safe vessels. The federal government ensures that vessels are built and maintained at acceptable levels of safety by reviewing designs, setting standards, and inspecting vessels. Because most oceangoing vessels in 6   The origins of the Interagency Committee on Waterways Management date to a 1993 interagency conference on coordinating research and development of federal waterways navigation, at which it was recommended that the idea of a committee be explored as a means of coordinating policy issues and program development. 7   Infrastructure includes physical infrastructure, navigation support systems and services, and information delivery systems and services.

OCR for page 13
--> U.S. waters are foreign-flag vessels, government agencies (the USCG in particular) rely heavily on international rules and standards, which requires close coordination with other governments, international agencies, and classification societies. Information systems are key to ensuring vessel safety through surveillance and enforcement. Safe crews. Through the licensing and drug testing of mariners, vessel inspections, and accident investigations, the federal government, through the USCG, ensures that crews of U.S. vessels are capable of safe operations. Because of the prevalence of foreign-flag vessels and foreign crews, however, international regulations and coordination are critical to ensuring that crews operate safely. Because of the need for consistent standards, the federal government alone should be responsible for establishing and monitoring personnel levels, standards, and qualifications. The training and qualification of mariners are as important to safe operations as hardware and information systems are to maintaining oversight. Hydrographic and bathymetric information. On February 10, 1807, the U.S. Congress passed an act authorizing President Thomas Jefferson "to cause a survey to be taken of coasts of the United States, in which shall be designated the islands and shoals and places of anchorage. . ." Since that time, the federal government, currently through NOAA, has gathered coastal data and created, published, and sold nautical charts. Predictions of tidal currents and water depth have also been published, as have compendiums of general information about U.S. waterways. Although authoritative static information is still important, the need for real-time information about navigation variables (e.g., water depth and currents) is growing. Increases in vessel sizes, without commensurate increases in channel dimensions, have raised safety concerns about under-keel clearances since there is a strong commercial interest in loading vessels to the maximum draft possible. Operating rules. Many operating rules govern the movement of vessels. Although some rules are port specific, based on waterway configurations and other factors, most rules are codified both nationally and internationally. Both mariners and the public should be confident that these rules are being followed and, if not, that prompt remedial action will be taken. Enforcement is a fundamental responsibility of government, principally the USCG, that requires a regulatory framework supported by accurate information about port and waterway conditions and activities. The proper determination of the federal role in maritime information systems must take into account many factors besides the beneficiaries of individual decisions. The complex issues raised by rapidly evolving technologies have underscored the need for a central arbiter acting in the national interest. For example, a balance must be established between the needs of local ports and the need to provide a consistent maritime operating environment among ports and nations. Deciding how to meet common needs and how to develop, implement, and enforce the technical and operating standards on a global basis is a complicated matter that is becoming even more complicated in light of the growing costs and increasing complexity of advanced technologies. Summary Because federal funding for maritime safety technologies and operations has been declining, some federal responsibilities are being shifted to other stakeholders and to public-private partnerships. The reduction in the federal government's support for—and therefore its role in—maritime safety appears to be driven exclusively by budgetary considerations and has been undertaken unilaterally without appropriate input from mariners, industry, or the general public. The current trend toward public-private dialog and partnerships is a positive step toward redressing this problem but could be enhanced by a clear articulation of public and private roles, including a description of the comprehensive federal responsibilities in marine transportation. The federal responsibility for maritime safety systems and services extends beyond the often-subjective issue of who will benefit. Only the federal government can promote the adoption and implementation of national and international standards, coordinate efforts with other nations, enforce national maritime laws and regulations, and balance local interests with the national need for a consistent operating environment from port to port. Although the effects on maritime safety of the changing public and private roles are not known precisely, the perception is widespread that safety is being compromised and that, because budgeting for all federal maritime agencies is not centrally coordinated, the limited federal dollars allocated for maritime safety are not always spent on the highest-priority needs. The relationship between maritime safety and efficiency is dynamic and difficult to define. However, there is clearly some overlap with respect to hazardous cargoes. The U.S. Customs Service's extensive electronic system for tracking all cargo in U.S. waters could be tapped to provide real-time information to emergency response teams. References Aylward, A. 1996. Intelligent Transportation Systems and Intermodal Freight Transportation. Report prepared for the ITS Joint Program Office by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Special Programs Administration. Cambridge, Mass.: Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. GAO (General Accounting Office). 1996. Marine Safety: Coast Guard

OCR for page 13
--> Should Address Alternatives as It Proceeds with VTS 2000. GAO/ RCED-96-83. Washington, D.C.: GAO. National Dialog on Vessel Traffic Services. 1997. Summary of Guidance from the National Dialog on Vessel Traffic Services. Available from the Marine Board, National Research Council, 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20418. Tel. 202-334-3119. NOS (National Ocean Service). 1998. Hydrographic Data Acquisition Plan for Nautical Charting. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NRC (National Research Council). 1994a. Minding the Helm: Marine Navigation and Piloting. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. NRC. 1994b. Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. NRC. 1996a. Vessel Navigation and Traffic Services for Safe and Efficient Ports and Waterways, Interim Report. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. NRC. 1996b. Informing Risk in a Democratic Society. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.