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Under existing law, the transportation of explosives and other dangerous articles on board vessels is regulated by the Coast Guard under the authority of R. S. 4472, as amended, the former Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation having been incorporated into the Coast Guard under the provisions of Reorganization Plan No. 3, 1946. Transportation of explosives and other dangerous articles not on board vessels is regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission under the authority of sections 232–236 of the Criminal Code (18 U. S. C. 382–386).
As early as 1871 the supervising inspectors of the Steamboat Inspection Service, the agency charged with the enforcement of other safety provisions on board vessels, had regulatory power over the carriage of dangerous cargoes on vessels. The authority was conferred by the act of February 28, 1871, chapter 100, which dealt comprehensively with safety regulations on vessels, and was codified in the Revised Statutes as section 4472. The act of March 4, 1921, chapter 172, however, amended section 233 of the Criminal Code to authorize the Interstate Commerce Commission to formulate regulations governing transportation of explosives or other dangerous articles on vessels which were common carriers and engaged in interstate or foreign commerce. In the years following 1921 the Interstate Commerce Commission made several attempts to promulgate regulations under this new authority. But the conflicts between the regulations of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the regulations and statutes administered by the Steamboat Inspection Service caused such confusion that in 1937 the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, successor to the Steamboat Inspection Service, undertook the task of drafting new legislation to clarify the situation. The result was the act of October 9, 1940, chapter 777 (46 U. S. C. 170), which amended Revised Statutes 4472 by making it a completely modern law for governing the carriage of dangerous cargoes on vessels. This act took away from the Interstate Commerce Commission all authority over the transportation of explosives or other dangerous articles on board vessels, with the exception of a provision making Interstate Commerce Commission regulations binding upon shippers making shipments of explosives or other dangerous articles via common carriers engaged in interstate or foreign commerce by land or water. This provision of control was agreed upon to assure uniform regulations governing descriptive names, packing, marking, labeling, and the use of specification containers. The Coast Guard now administers Revised Statutes 4472, as amended.
Since the beginning of the propulsion of vessels by machinery all safety laws governing construction, equipment, manning, and stowage of dangerous cargoes, with the exception noted in the preceding paragraph, have been administered by the same agency. It is believed that that one agency, which is now the Coast Guard, should not be divested of supervision over one aspect of vessel safety while it retains responsibility for all other aspects. The enactment of S. 1141 would give another Government agency regulatory power over affairs of the merchant marine without any new advantage to the industry.
Article 24 of the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, 1929, provides that carriage of cargoes dangerous to life or safety is forbidden. The government of each nation determines for itself what is dangerous cargo. If the Interstate Commerce Commission is made the agency of this Government for enforcing that provision it will introduce another agency into the membership of the Committee of the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea.
Several other effects of enactment of the bill do not seem desirable. Another Government agency would become an interested party in the investigation of some marine casualties. “Hazardous articles,” the carriage of which is now regulated, are not included in the definition "dangerous articles” in the bill. The authority contained in the amended section 236 (e) could result in the injection of local police power into merchant marine affairs in a field now occupied exclusively by the Federal Government. The bill does not appear to offer any benefit not provided by the present statute which would recommend its enactment,
The Treasury Department, for the reasons stated, recommends against the enactment of S. 1141.
The Department has been advised by the Bureau of the Budget that there is no objection to the submission of this report to your committee. Very truly yours,
E. H. FOLEY, Jr., Acting Secretary of the Treasury.
Mr. FORISTEL. I would like to call Commodore Shepheard of the United States Coast Guard. He represents his organization and the Treasury Department.
Commodore SHEPHEARD. H. C. Shepheard, United States Coast
hand and swear that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Commodore SHEPHEARD. I do.
TESTIMONY OF COMMODORE H. C. SHEPHEARD, UNITED STATES
COAST GUARD, CHIEF OF THE OFFICE OF MERCHANT MARINE SAFETY
The CHAIRMAN. Do you have a prepared statement, Commodore ? Commodore SHEPHEARD. No; I do not.
I would like to make a brief reference in opening to a very interesting paper recently presented before the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers entitled “Various Governing Bodies and the Effect of Their Regulations on Shipping." Very brief mention is made of this bill in this paper, and I quote:
Another bill which was presented before the Eightieth Congress, first session, was S. 1141, to amend the Transportation of Explosives Act. This bill, if passed, would transfer the cognizance of handling of explosives on shipboard from the United States Coast Guard to the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Thus, more proposed laws, more proposed governing bodies, and more regulations, when the real need is for consolidation and simplification.
I concur: with that statement.
There is one other quotation I would like to make, which is the theme of the whole paper:
the effect of laws and regulations governing our merchant marine, will in the final analysis determine whether or not we shall continue to have a merchant marine.
What concerns me is whether or not we are going to have another agency entering into the field of design, construction, operation, manning, and inspection of vessels.
Is there to be another agency entering into the design, construction, inspection, operation, and manning of vessels! Another agency to investigate marine casualties? Another agency to license merchant marine officers and seamen—to try them for negligence, looking toward suspension and revocation of said licenses and certificates ? For the successful administration of the control of dangerous cargo on vessels these are all vital activities and at present all within the scope of Coast Guard duties, and which if duplicated by another agency of the Government would be costly and cause more serious confusion to industry.
The Coast Guard is looked upon as the maritime safety organization. It does seem logical that, aside from its glamorous rescue work and so on, that the organization which is called upon to extricate vessels and seamen when they are in distress should have some control over those vessels, and seamen before they are operated or in port.
Even if this bill were enacted there are other provisions of the navigation and inspection laws which would authorize the Coast Guard to prevent the operation of the vessels if, in the opinion of an inspector, it could not be operated with safety to life.
The CHAIRMAN. Then we would have the problem of two agencies competing
Commodore SHEPHEARD. That is right. I point that out as an indication of the hiatus that is possible—that the shipper or vessel owner may find himself in.
Mr. FORISTEL. How many agencies now regulate shipping in its total picture!
Commodore SHEPHEARD. This paper that I just referred to refers to no less than 67 Government agencies with which the shipowner has to deal in order to conduct his business.
The CHAIRMAN. It certainly makes it a complicated thing.
I would not presume that any change in jurisdiction would be made unless it could be shown first that it could be done more efficiently, and second, more economically. The millions of tons of high explosives were moved during the war under the Coast Guard jurisdiction without a single accident of consequence.
The wartime situation was quite different than peacetime, as well. We had considerations that went beyond the inherent hazard of the commodity that was being transported, such as sabotage and the weighing of the military urgency against the marine hazard. The Coast Guard performed splendidly under conditions which were not conducive to safety.
I think that covers the efficiency end of it. Now, as far as economy is concerned, the Coast Guard organization is purposely set up, it is flexible in administration. We have but one full-time employee, and one clerk, one stenographer, and that composes the dangerous cargo section of the Coast Guard. So I believe that both from an efficiency and economy angle that the Coast Guard record is going to be very difficult to match.
The CHAIRMAN. You do not think ICC could do it with any fewer people?
Commodore SHEPHEARD. No, sir. I do not see how it would be possible.
If another war should overtake us I do not think there is any question but what the Coast Guard would again be assigned. The question of port security is a rather broad term. It includes the protection of waterfront facilities, plants, manning of fire boats, the handling of dangerous cargoes, the waterside and picket boats patrol, as well as the shoreside patrol.
The CHAIRMAN. You mean as a part of the United States Navy?
Commodore SHEPHEARD. That is right. That was assigned to the Coast Guard. We know too well the almost chaos that we just barely averted in the early stages of the war, and it does seem that when a peacetime activity can be hooked up with national defense then it would be folly to make any change.
At the request of the State Department the Coast Guard recently submitted to that Department standards for the handling of dangerous cargoes which it recommends for international adoption at a forthcoming international safety at sea convention. That is a result of about 212 years' committee work. It would seem that if this bill went through that all of that material should be turned over to the ICC for administration as well.
Frankly, it is my opinion that if the bill does pass it is going to be more costly in administration, and less efficient in operation. It will have an adverse effect on our national defense; it will harass the ship builder, the shipowner, and the seafarer, and there will be overlapping duplication in effort on the part of the two agencies, and a definite division of responsibility.
Mr. FORISTEL. Commodore, you are now charged with the specifications and the shipbuilding itself, from the inception of a ship on the ways, are you not?
Commodore SHEPHEARD. That is right. Mr. FORISTEL. And, of course, you are charged with the inspection of the building of barges which carry cargo?
Commodore SHEPHEARD. That is correct.
Mr. FORISTEL. Even if this bill passed, in your opinion, would it not still be your duty ?
Commodore SHEPHEARD. Yes.
Mr. FORISTEL. And further than that, do you not, under your Department of Marine Inspection, license pilots?
Commodore SHEPHEARD. That is correct.
Mr. FORISTEL. And pilots are the operators, of course, of these boats we are talking about, and they carry the cargo up and down the rivers.
Commodore SHEPHEARD. That is right.
Mr. FORISTEL. What is the safety record of the people who are in this room? You know who they are, they are the independent small shippers of today, a fellow who owns a tug or a few barges. What is their safety record as of now under your jurisdiction?
Commodore SHEPHEARD. Excellent.
Commodore SHEPHEARD. I do not know in what direction it could be improved.
Mr. FORISTEL. There are always some accidents.
Mr. Crost. Commodore, Mr. Perrin spoke before about the need for greater uniformity in connection with the handling, labeling, packaging, and stowing of explosives and other dangerous articles. Has either the Interstate Commerce Commission, or the ODT, ever brought to your attention a specific problem of the need for greater uniformity with respect to those matters?
Commodore SHEPHEARD. What are the first two items you mentioned?
Mr. Crost. I am quoting from Mr. Perrin's statement, where he says, “The proposed bill regulates the handling, labeling, packaging and stowing of explosives and other dangerous articles.
Commodore SHEPHEARD. The labeling and packaging of the article is already in the ICC. We are, by law, required to accept the labeling and packaging, so there could not be any lack of uniformity there.
Mr. Crost. Have they ever brought any specific problems to your attention with respect to the handling and stowing?
Commodore SHEPHEARD. Not that I could recall.
The CHAIRMAN. Commodore, would you care to comment on what economic effect this would have on the operators?
Commodore SHEPHEARD. I thought if this was changed, and they did get into the design and construction operation, and so on, the inspection of the vessels, that it would be costly to the operator, and there certainly would be confusion.
The CHAIRMAN. It should be made clear that this committee's interest is not the regulation or lack of regulation of various types of transportation system. Our interest is the impact it has on the small business units affected. That is the reason for the question.
Mr. FORISTEL. Mr. Chairman, I would now like to call Mr. Chester C. Thompson, president of the American Waterway Operators, Inc. Mr. Thompso will you
raise your right hand and swear that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. THOMPSON. I do.
TESTIMONY OF CHESTER C. THOMPSON, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN
WATERWAY OPERATORS, INC., WASHINGTON, D. C.
Mr. FORISTEL. Please identify yourself.
Mr. THOMPSON. My name is Chester C. Thompson. I am president of the American Waterway Operators, Inc., a national trade association of common, contract, and private domestic water carriers and operators, serving the inland rivers, intercoastal canal and waterways, the base, sounds, and harbors of the United States.
The CHAIRMAN. And a former distinguished member of Congress. Mr. THOMPSON. Thank you, sir.
The American Waterway Operators are opposed to the enactment of legislation that will transfer to the Interstate Commerce Commission from the Coast Guard regulatory authority over so-called dangerous cargo, a bill for which is pending before a committee, a branch of Congress.
These operators who are represented here by a very substantial group, all of whom came here at their own expense, a distance of many miles, some ranging up in excess of a thousand, do not believe that this bill is in the public interest. For many years, the United States Coast Guard has exercised the authority over the transportation of all dangerous cargo by water, and the safety record has justified, in our opinion, a continuation of the present system of control over this type of dangerous cargo.
There has been considerable stress made here, and very properly so, on the transportation of liquid cargo, principally petroleum and petroleum products. There are other dangerous cargoes that move in substantial volume on the inland waterways.
One, for instance, is sulphur, which moves in various sizable tonnage on the inland waterways. And certainly the movement of sulphur and other dry, dangerous cargo would not be exempted under the reported exemption contained in the first section of the bill S. 1141.