U.S. Senate passes Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act
The U.S. Senate, by a voice vote, adopted the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004, which authorizes $8.17 billion for the U.S. Coast Guard in fiscal year 2005.
The bill sets an active duty limit of 45,500 for Coast Guard personnel. The service's commandant may accept original enlistments and re-enlistments for other than full years, and offer an incentive bonus to encourage enlisted members to enter 'certain critical skill specialties.'
The legislation also orders Coast Guard members to carry firearms and arrest persons suspected of violating federal security zone regulations, and to conduct vulnerability assessments of waters adjacent to U.S. nuclear facilities.
Also, non-tank vessels of 400 gross tons and greater are now required by the bill to have oil spill response plans similar to those mandated for tankers, and certain smaller-sized ships will have to carry and use electronic navigation.
The foreign lessee provision of the coastwise documentation law will be significantly narrowed, and passive lenders will not be liable for oil spill damages as owners of a vessel.
The bill also authorizes the Coast Guard to develop and implement a long-range vessel-tracking program, and makes most U.S. towing vessels subject to Coast Guard inspection.