Conference Committee Approves Coast Guard Authorization Conference Report

April 7, 2006

Washington, D.C. – A House-Senate Conference Committee has approved the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 889, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2006 (Conference Report 109-413).

The Conference Report authorizes $8.7 billion for Fiscal Year 2006. The authorization agreed to will continue to allow the Coast Guard to perform non-homeland security missions such as search and rescue, fisheries enforcement, and marine environmental protection, as well as fund the necessary missions related to ports, waterways, and port security.

The Conference Report includes numerous measures that would allow the Coast Guard to enforce provisions of the Maritime Transportation Security Act, an essential element in securing the nation's ports, waterways, and transportation networks. Additionally, it would address maritime safety issues by allowing the Coast Guard to continue training both the commercial fishing industry and the recreational boating public in issues regarding safety at sea.

The Conference Report authorizes $100 million for the Coast Guard to operate and maintain the polar icebreakers. It also calls on the Coast Guard to take all necessary measures to maintain its current fleet of polar icebreakers, including a plan for the long-term re-capitalization of these assets.

As a reflection of its support of the Coast Guard recapitalizing its fleet of cutters and aircraft, the Conference Report authorizes $1.3 billion for the Coast Guard’s Deepwater Program.

In response to the final report of the United States Commission on Ocean Policy, the Conference Report includes provisions that would allow the Coast Guard to work with other federal, state, and local agencies in developing plans to assist vessels in distress, thus eliminating the potential for loss of life and environmental damage. It also directs the Coast Guard to develop steps that will allow it to better detect and interdict foreign vessels that are violating fishing regulations.

The Conference Report also includes the following highlights:

- Authorizes a supplemental $300 million for Coast Guard operations and maintenance associated with Katrina, as well as for the increased costs of fuel.

- Authorizes a supplemental $200 million for capital improvements for Coast Guard facilities in Fiscal Year 2006, including air and vessel assets, and for equipment that needs to be replaced, including aids to navigation to ensure safe transits through shipping lanes.

- Officially commends the Coast Guard for its exemplary response to Hurricane Katrina and calls for the Coast Guard to play a major role in any future national emergency or natural disaster.

- Authorizes the Coast Guard to use its maritime safety and security teams for missions other than security missions, such as response to natural disasters like Katrina.

- Extends the use of annual leave for Coast Guard members involved in the response effort to Hurricane Katrina.

- Requires the Coast Guard to report to Congress on Katrina's impact on Coast Guard operations and facilities and on navigable waterways, facilities located in such waterways, and on the environment.

- Raises the liability limits for responsible parties under the Oil Pollution Act.