To the Congress of the United States:
The recent series of oil tanker accidents in and near American waters is a grave reminder of the risks associated with marine transportation of oil. Though we can never entirely eliminate these risks, we can reduce them. Today I am announcing a diverse but interrelated group of measures designed to do so.
These measures are both international and domestic. Pollution of the oceans by oil is a global problem requiring global solutions. I intend to communicate directly with the leaders of a number of major maritime nations to solicit their support for international action. Oil pollution is also a serious domestic problem requiring prompt and effective action by the federal government to reduce the danger to American lives, the American economy, and American beaches and shorelines, and the steps I am taking will do this.
The following measures are designed to achieve three objectives: First, to reduce oil pollution caused by tanker accidents and by routine operational discharges from all vessels; Second, to improve our ability to deal swiftly and effectively with oil spills when they do occur; and Third, to provide full and dependable compensation to victims of oil pollution damage.
These are the measures I recommend:
RATIFICATION of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. I am transmitting this far-reaching and comprehensive treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent. This Convention, by imposing segregated ballast requirements for new large oil tankers and placing stringent controls on all oil discharges from ships, represents an important multilateral step toward reducing the risk of marine oil pollution. In the near future, I will submit implementing legislation to the Congress.
REFORM of ship construction and equipment standards. I am instructing the Secretary of Transportation to develop new rules for oil tanker standards within 60 days. These regulations will apply to all oil tankers over 20,000 deadweight tons, U.S. and foreign, which call at American ports. These regulations will include:
--Double bottoms on all new tankers;
--Segregated ballast on all tankers;
--Inert gas systems on all tankers;
--Backup radar systems, including collision avoidance equipment, on all tankers; and
--Improved emergency steering standards for all tankers.
These requirements will be fully effective within five years. Where technological improvements and alternatives can be shown to achieve the same degree of protection against pollution, the rules will allow their use.
Experience has shown that ship construction and equipment standards are effective only if backed by a strong enforcement program. Because the quality of inspections by some nations falls short of U.S. practice, I have instructed the Department of State and the Coast Guard to begin diplomatic efforts to improve the present international system of inspection and certification. In addition, I recommend the immediate scheduling of a special international conference for late 1977 to consider these construction and inspection measures.
IMPROVEMENT of crew standards and training. I am instructing the Secretary of Transportation to take immediate steps to raise the licensing and qualification standards for American crews.
The international requirements for crew qualifications, which are far from strict, will be dealt with by a major international conference we will participate in next year. I am instructing the Secretary. of Transportation to identify additional requirements which should be discussed, and if not included, may be imposed by the United States after 1978 on the crews of all ships calling at American ports.
DEVELOPMENT of Tanker Boarding Program and U.S. Marine Safety Information System. Starting immediately, the Coast Guard will board and examine each foreign flag tanker calling at American ports at least once a year and more often if necessary. This examination will insure that the ship meets all safety and environmental protection regulations. Those ships which fail to do so may be denied access to U.S. ports or, in some cases, denied the right to leave until the deficiencies have been corrected. The information gathered by this boarding program will permit the Coast Guard to identify individual tankers having histories of poor maintenance, accidents, and pollution violations. We will also require that the names of tanker owners, major stockholders, and changes in vessel names be disclosed and included in this Marine Safety Information System.
APPROVAL of Comprehensive Oil Pollution Liability and Compensation Legislation. I am transmitting appropriate legislation to establish a single, national standard of strict liability for oil spills. This legislation is designed to replace the present fragmented, overlapping systems of federal and state liability laws and compensation funds. It will also create a $200 million fund to clean up oil spills and compensate victims for oil pollution damages.
IMPROVEMENT of federal ability to respond to oil pollution emergencies. I have directed the appropriate federal agencies, particularly the Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency, in cooperation with state and local governments to improve our ability to contain and minimize the damaging effects of oil spills. The goal is an ability to respond within six hours to a spill of 100,000 tons.
Oil pollution of the oceans is a serious problem that calls for concentrated, energetic, and prompt attention. I believe these measures constitute an effective program to control it. My Administration pledges 'its best efforts, in cooperation with the international community, the Congress, and the public, to preserve the earth's oceans and their resources.
The White House,
March 17, 1977.