"On November 7, 2007, a container ship collided with a tower of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, spilling 58,000 gallons of the ship's bunker fuel into the Bay. The incident has raised questions about the role of maritime pilots and vessel traffic services (VTSs) in preventing accidents in U.S. harbors, such as: Is there a need for further independent oversight of pilot performance? Could VTSs operate more like Air Traffic Control centers? Should the pilot and ship captain be required to agree on a passage plan before transiting a harbor? […]. Given the federal interest in marine environmental protection and the Coast Guard's mission to ensure the safety of shipping in U.S. waters, some experts have advocated stronger federal oversight of pilots. […]. State pilots resist greater federal oversight, arguing that the unique geography and navigational requirements of each port justifies local oversight. Whether VTSs should exert more direct control over vessel movement is also raised as a safety measure, but most acknowledge that an experienced on-board mariner is probably in the best position to direct a vessel's movement. Requiring that a pilot and ship captain first agree on a harbor passage plan, investigating language difficulties between pilots and foreign crews, and Coast Guard rotational staffing practices, are other issues policymakers may examine in assessing the safety of ship navigation in U.S. harbors."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34365