Good morning. Thank you, President Phil Keeter and Chairman Robert Soucy, for inviting me to speak before the 2007 Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) annual conference. Also, Larry Innis, MRAA’s Director of Government Relations, who has assisted us in our arrangements to be here at this conference. Before starting in earnest on the topic of recreational boating safety and some observations, I would like to introduce staff here with me today; Bill Gossard from our Office of Safety Recommendations and Advocacy and my Special Assistant Tom Doyle.
For more than two and one half decades the National Transportation Safety Board has been pleased to work with the MRAA in advancing recreational boating safety on our Nation's waterways. It has been the leadership of organizations, such as the Retailers Association that has kept the Safety Board engaged in this unique mode of transportation. Bill informs me that he has worked closely with many folks in the MRAA to advance safety. For example, one of your Board members was a powerful assist in Virginia in 2006 when the Safety Board and the Virginia Safe Boating Alliance worked hard to advance a boating safety education bill, HB 1627. Mr. Jim Browning of Browning’s Marine in Virginia Beach is that person and I wish to personally thank Jim for his leadership and assistance in supporting that critical legislation.
This morning I would like to focus on three critical areas where the Safety Board and the MRAA continue to work together to make the Nation’s waterways safer: first, the 2004 public forum on Personal Flotation Devices in Recreational Boating; second, the Board’s MOST WANTED list and State recommendations; and last the newly emerging issue of safety of sole State passenger vessels.
In 2004, the Safety Board called for a PFD Forum to address issues dealing with the wearing of life jackets and related factual information. The Forum resulted in 4 recommendations issued to four organizations: the United States Coast Guard, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and of course the MRAA. These recommendations were issued on March 16, 2006, and responses were received by the Safety Board from all four organizations.
The forum confirmed safety issues that the Board has been on record supporting for many years:
- The need for recreational boating safety education to be accomplished in every State;
- Mandatory wear of personal flotation devices for children should be of the highest priority and;
- Any increased or enhanced wear of lifejackets for the boating population in general should be undertaken by the States.
The forum confirmed that there is much work to do and the continued high loss of life can and will be reduced. The Board’s recommendations asked that the manufacturers and retailers work to change the boating culture to better accept the wear of life jackets. We asked for a marketing strategy from the NMMA and the MRAA organizations and they have provided that information. Indeed, one of the first actions accomplished under this program was the issuance of Washington Watch by the MRAA that outlined the MRAA’s marketing strategy to accomplish the Board’s recommendation. Further, Phil and Glenn’s kind invitation sent Bill Gossard (since I could not make the meeting) to Las Vegas, to address your Board meeting so he could discuss with you how you the MRAA could further achieve your strategy. One action item we suggested to the MRAA was a public policy statement by your organization that it supported boating safety education. I am very pleased that the MRAA Board and membership has now accomplished that action with the issuance of the: “MRAA Position Paper: Boater Safety Education” adopted on September 14, 2007. I congratulate the MRAA on this action. .
I would note that both the NMMA and the MRAA’s actions on the Board’s recommendation from the PFD Forum were closed acceptable action.
Second, the Board voted in September 2007 to keep State Recreational Boating Safety on the Board’s Most Wanted Safety Improvements list for 2008. The Board’s Safety Recommendations on the list are M-93-1 and M-98-101 issued to States and Territories. Safety Recommendation M-93-1 has three parts: mandatory wear of lifejackets by children, recreational boating safety education, and operator licensing. Where are we today on the accomplishment of these recommendations, well we are making tremendous headway.
- In regard to recreational boating safety education, 36 States, DC, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands have enacted legislation or taken action consistent with our recommendation. In 2007, the Board closed this portion of the recommendation for Virginia. In 2008, we are looking for safety legislative initiatives in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Utah, North Carolina and Minnesota. We invite the MRAA to add their important support for recreational boating safety initiatives in these States.
- In regard to the mandatory wear of lifejackets for children; 47 States, the DC, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands have completed a State requirement. There remain only 3 States (Virginia, Iowa, and Wisconsin) that have not taken final action. Bill has informed me that we will have solid efforts planned for State legislatures again in Wisconsin and Iowa. Virginia has proven to be a difficult State, and after this meeting if any of your membership could assist us in the Virginia legislative process we would greatly appreciate your help. Bill Gossard will be here and please personally take the time to see him and let us know if you could be of help.
- In regard to Safety Recommendation M-98-101 which addresses the need for persons renting personal watercraft (PWCs) to be provided some safety instruction training prior to operating such a vessels, presently, 37 States, DC, and 4 territories have enacted legislation or taken action consistent with the Board’s recommendation. There remain 13 States where the Board continues to seek action on this recommendation.
The third area, I would like to briefly highlight, is safety of sole State passenger vessels. The Safety Board, as a result of the ETHAN ALLEN casualty in 2006 in which 20 persons lost their lives on Lake George in New York State, suggested to the United States Coast Guard and the NASBLA that a joint training seminar would be a positive interim measure to address some of the safety concerns learned from this and other passenger vessel accidents. The safety forum on safety of sole State passenger vessels was held in October 2006, and I am pleased to report that 27 States and Puerto Rico were in attendance. I do not want to overstate the success of this seminar but I believe it was a sound first step to engage States as to the seriousness of the certification and inspection needs for this class of vessels. Some of the serious issues that were discussed at this seminar included but were not limited to:
- Certification and safety inspection
- Stability and seaworthiness
- Passenger and crew safety
- Crew qualifications and training
- Marine accident reporting
- Reporting of accidents/incidents
In 2007, 3 States took independent action to address the serious lack of oversight for these vessels: Texas, Utah and Tennessee. The Safety Board currently is engaged with the NASBLA to rewrite that organization’s model act guidelines to strengthen issue areas that were either not addressed or needed modification. We will continue to follow this issue closely and look to the other 24 States to follow the action of Texas, Utah and Tennessee.
In conclusion, I again wish to reach out and let you know that Vice Chairman Robert Sumwalt, Board Members Kitty Higgins, Deborah Hersman, and Stephen Chealander as well as myself are available to discuss these safety issues with you at any time. Our offices are always open and if you travel to Washington, please stop in and let’s talk.
Finally, I would like to again thank Phil, Robert, and your Board for providing me the opportunity to join with you this morning, and I, once again, congratulate and thank you for your hard work and your continuing efforts to improve recreational boating safety. I look forward to the MRAA’s continued efforts to further improve boating safety for the rest of 2007 and into the new year 2008, so that we together can further reduce recreational boating fatalities, injuries, and accidents.
Speeches & Testimony