Volpe Study Scooping Risk Assessment:

Protection Against Oil Spills in the Marine Waters of Northwest Washington State

Why did the Coast Guard conduct the study?

In 1996 the White House issued the Department of Transportation Action Plan to Address Vessel and Environmental Safety in Puget Sound-Area Waters.

Among other things, the plan required a review of the overall marine safety system to determine whether any hazard scenarios warranted consideration of additional casualty prevention or response measures. The Volpe report was prepared to facilitate that review.


  • Use a blend of quantified data derived from best available sources and qualitative assessments by local and national experts.
  • Divide the waterway into nine segments for evaluation of accident probabilities and environmental sensitivities.
  • Assign values of relative risk of accidental spills within the waterway.

Highest relative likelihood of an accident by waterway segment

  1. Central Puget Sound, Admiralty Inlet to Tacoma
  2. Rosario Strait and its approaches
  3. Offshore approaches to Strait, off Coast of Washington and Vancouver Island

Highest probability by accident type

  1. Collision
  2. Powered groundings
  3. Drift groundings

Most likely causes for accidents

  1. Human and organizational error
  2. Physical environment
  3. Conflicting operations

Environmental sensitivities

All areas of the waterway were considered highly sensitive to oils spills because all areas contain:

  • Rich diverse marine life,
  • High economic and cultural value, and
  • High aesthetic and recreational value.

How best to manage risk of spills

  • Reduced human error
  • Enhanced human qualification, licensing and performance standards.
  • Implementation of new revised Standards for Training and Certification of Watch keepers (STCW)
  • Improvements to marine weather reporting
  • Ongoing implementation of International Safety Management (ISM) Code requirements
  • Development of better data collection process
  • Enhanced public participation in the management of waterway safety.

Other Sources

  • The Volpe Report can be found on the Internet at http://dms.dot.gov look under docket #4974.

The Thirteenth Coast Guard District Public Affairs Office (dep) created this page on December 29, 1999 and last modified it June 26, 2002. This page may be reproduced locally. If any changes are needed please notify D13 (dep) at 206.220.7237. More Coast Guard information can be accessed at http://www.uscg.mil and a complete listing of these fact sheets can be found at http://www.uscg.mil/d13.