Politicians weigh in on CG legislation

On Thursday, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Salud Carbajal and Julia Brownley, proposed sweeping boat safety legislation in the wake of the Conception dive boat fire that killed 34 people on Labor Day. The CG agreed to review the very same measures back in November.

Both the CG and the NTSB declined to comment citing the pending legislation.

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What’s interesting about the L.A Times article is none of the small boat operators that were interviewed had anything bad to say about the new proposed requirements? Besides the USCG, I wonder who was opposed to glow in the dark exit signs, more fire extinguishers, better E-exits, better fire alarms & better fire fighting training for small boat crews before this tragedy happened? I can’t believe the CG went out of their way to cut small boat operators a bunch a slack on their own accord. But now since it would be a PR nightmare to say preventing firey deaths would cost too much theses operators are leaving the CG holding all the responsibility. If this is the case, I hope these operators never get a good night’s sleep for the rest of their days over these passengers who burned to death.


The regulators are faced with 2 levels of solutions to help prevent this from happening again. Improvement such as lit exit signs, proper charging stations and more effective smoke detection would be relatively inexpensive and easy for operators to comply with. Significant improvements like reducing the number of passenger berths and reconfiguring escape routes would be a financial burden for the operators and the CG appears to be sensitive to the economic impact of their decisions.
The one item on the COI that most likely would have prevented this tragedy is one they can’t enforce: The directive to maintain a night watch while the passengers are asleep.

They are required by law to be. An economic impact analysis is a required part of every rulemaking. On the other hand, the NTSB has no obligation to consider economic impact in making their recommendations.

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Can Senator Feinstein, through Congress, achieve the goal of ordering the CG to adopt her proposal without regard to economic impact? It would seem like a tall mountain to climb unless it’s just run of the mill political grandstanding.

The biggest USCG regulatory problem is this utter nonsense of measuring vessels for regulatory purposes by a GRT method which has become full of loopholes and creative exemptions. This has allowed sizeable ships to be regulated as if they were small boats.

50 years ago there were few 99 GRT vessels over 80 feet, 400 hp, 49 day or 25 overnight passengers on only one or two deck levels. Today, there are many vessels approaching 200 feet, some with five deck levels, but miraculously only 99 GRT. There are fast 6000 hp vessels that are only 99 GRT. Today, there are 99 GRT ships with large passenger capacities.

The growth of 99 GRT small boats into 99 GRT ships has completely perverted a regulatory program intended for small boats. This has become an insane farce masquerading as a serious regulatory program.


Which is separate from congress passing a new law, correct? Congress can force the issue without regard to economic impact?

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They could, but it would more likely take the route that the Senator and co-sponsors appear to be taking in this case—you just tell the CG to make new regulations (following a review). Which means the CG has to go through everything including economic impact just as it would if they did it on their own.

From the proposed Bill: “IN GENERAL.—The Secretary shall prescribe additional regulations to secure the safety of individuals and property on board covered small passenger vessels.“

It’s a reasonable way to approach it, these things should be done in a public manner with input and by an agency in consultation with the industry, and following results of the investigation. Of course that should also happen on its own if everything was working right. But the CG is not their own master, and regulation is a dirty word for its boss, who is still saying cut regulations so it’s good if there is a legislative cover for taking actions, it’s probably the only way anything would happen.

One interesting other item in the proposed bill though— this section: “ SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.—Notwithstanding any other provision in this chapter, including paragraph (1)(B), the regulations issued under section 3203, including the safety management system established by such regulations, shall apply to all small passenger vessels.’’

This section appears to just say—apply SMS to all small passenger vessels, not pass regulations to do so. This could be something. Hard to imagine small operators going through this. And since they will likely have to buy something and services to implement and audit, probably deserves economic impact assessment which it won’t get. One wonders if the various lobbying groups representing small passenger vessels will lobby against this provision to keep it from affecting small operators or see it as a means to develop and sell SMS products of their own like the towing vessel RCP before TSMS.

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I remember a guy in a DP course I was doing in Houston, he got the job as captain on a 243’ fast crew boat that was 99grt, he was going for his 6 pack the next week.
He said got the job as he could find the dipstick on a Cat diesel…
Yes the boat owners tell the CG what to do…
‘Only in Merica’


Wouldn’t one need a 100 ton to run Master on that?

Sorry that might be correct but the issue was he was going for it yet already the capt
Anywhere else in the world the boat might be just under 3000grt hence needs a real ticket

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“…the CG appears to be sensitive to the economic impact of their decisions.”

Somehow, when considering the economic impact of rules the governing bodies only consider the economic impact to the companies and owners. Why is the economic impact to maritime personnel not considered? What if the impact of the new rule caused the owners to have to pay higher wages for bigger and more skilled crews? What if the value of a 1500t license or unlimited license increased substantially?

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This might be a place to start:

From the Conception’s COI, a 75’ LOA fiberglass boat:
Manning requirements: 1 master, 2 deckhands.
In addition, this vessel may carry 99 Passengers, 0 Other Persons in crew, 0 Persons in addition to crew, and no others. Total Persons allowed: 103

Operators aren’t going to go above what the law requires to the detriment of the bottom line.

It’s kind of hard to maintain a night watch with only 3 crew that are required to do dive OPS all day. The manning requirements aren’t realistic.

There’s no prohibition on an owner manning the vessel to a higher level if workload calls for it. In fact that’s the responsible thing to do. But you can’t ignore the strict requirement to post the night watchman, not like it was something they didn’t know.

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Actually, it’s 4. I missed listing a mate from the COI. But still a big stretch.