The U.S. Coast Guard and the Waterways

Two fully loaded tankers collided in dense fog at the entrance to San Francisco Bay in 1971 and this totally shut down the Port of San Francisco. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), those operating the vessels failed to correctly utilize their VHF radios and radarscopes. Both vessels were being operated at a speed too high for the foggy conditions, and both operators failed to keep their ship on its own side of the channel. Following this incident, the NTSB recommended expanding the authority of the U.S. Coast Guard over vessel traffic in ports. The contemporary Harbor Advisory Radar system was a voluntary system, and one of the vessels was not maintaining its connection at the time of the collision. Moreover, the system had proved inadequate, as it prohibited U.S. Coast Guard operators from directing vessels. Subsequently, Congress enacted the Ports & Waterways Safety Act of 1972, which mandated that vessel traffic services (VTS) facilitate maritime transportation and guard the marine environment. San Francisco Bay was the site of the first VTS. The history of the Coast Guard's authority is presented in the article.


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  • Accession Number: 01608508
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Aug 16 2016 2:54PM