Congress Sends Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill to President

June 27, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the conference report for H.R. 889, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2006. On June 22, the U.S. Senate adopted by unanimous consent a resolution that deemed the conference report passed upon the House’s acceptance of the Senate’s correcting language. The bill now goes to the President for his signature.

The legislation 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.

H.R. 889 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 bill 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 legislation includes provisions that direct the Coast Guard to develop steps that will allow it to better detect and interdict foreign vessels that are violating fishing regulations, and calls on the Coast Guard to seek improvements to flag state implementation of international agreements for the protection of the marine environment and security.

H.R. 889 also includes the following highlights:

-- Authorizes a supplemental $300 million for Coast Guard operations and maintenance associated with Hurricane 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.

-- 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 hurricane Katrina.

-- Requires the Coast Guard to report to Congress on Hurricane 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.