COAST GUARD STUDIES TIGHTER PILOT RULES

COAST GUARD STUDIES TIGHTER PILOT RULES

The U.S. Coast Guard plans hearings on a proposal to stiffen federal licensing requirements for the nation's 1,100 harbor pilots.

Admiral Paul Yost, commandant of the Coast Guard, said in an interview Monday that the agency is working on a proposal to tighten requirements in the wake of a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation. I favor it, Adm. Yost said.A Coast Guard spokesman said no hearing date has been set to review any proposal.

The licensing issue arose following an October 1986 collision between a towboat and a 600-foot cargo ship on the Mississippi River north of New Orleans. The pilot involved in the accident had five previous accidents causing more than $20 million in damage to vessels and docks.

Adm. Yost said the pilot was never disciplined because he was operating under a state license.

While port pilot associations generally require new members to be federally licensed as a rite of passage into their organizations, Adm. Yost said most harbor pilots perform their duties using state licenses.

The commandant said that means the Coast Guard can't try the man for his license in vessel accident cases involving negligence.

On other matters, Adm. Yost said:

* There is no chance the elimination of the New York Vessel Traffic System will be reconsidered. A congressional source had said marine insurers are troubled by the shutdown of VTS, a vessel traffic monitoring service designed to make navigation more safe. But Adm. Yost said he had heard no complaints

from New York.

* The Coast Guard should remain under the Department of Transportation. The Coast Guard's mission is more similar to that of the Department of Transportation instead of the Treasury Department.

The Defense Department, another suggested parent for the Coast Guard, should continue anti-drug campaign support, but should not take over planning or command in the law enforcement area.