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Remarks before the 2006 Canadian Safe Boating Council Annual Symposium, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Mark V. Rosenker
Canadian Safe Boating Council Annual Symposium, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Good morning. Thank you, Chair Randy Whaley and members of the Canadian Safe Boating Council for inviting me to the 2006 annual symposium in this wonderful city, Quebec, and also a gracious thanks to our host Vahe Vassilian, Quebec Safe Boating Council, so that I can speak to the backbone of the recreational boating safety effort in Canada. Before starting in earnest on the topic of recreational boating safety, I would like to introduce staff here with me today; Bill Gossard from the Office of Safety Recommendations and Advocacy; and Tom Doyle, my special assistant.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been pleased to work with the Canadian Safe Boating Council for more than 10 years advancing recreational boating safety on our respective Nation's waterways. I have been pleased that Bill Gossard has kept in close touch with you on a number of safety issues that I will address. Because as we all know the problems in the United States are shared problems with Canada. Boaters in Canada come to the United States and boaters from the United States love to boat in Canada particularly on the shared Great Lakes, Parry Sound, and Georgian Bay.

This morning I would like to focus on three critical areas where the Safety Board has undertaken initiatives to improve recreational boating safety to make our Nation’s waterways safer: the 2004 public forum on Personal Flotation Devices in Recreational Boating: the Board’s MOST WANTED list and State recommendations; and the new emerging issue of safety of sole State passenger vessels. The 2004 PFD Forum addressed issues dealing with the wearing of life jackets and related factual information and resulted in 4 recommendations issued to four organizations: the United States Coast Guard, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) and NASBLA. These recommendations were issued in June 2006, and responses have been 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 these 2 organizations and they have provided that information. Indeed, Member Debbie Hersman, one of our newest Board members, attended and spoke at the first NMMA initiative in this regard when the Outdoor Channel, NMMA and the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers held a joint signing that the TV channel would support the wearing of PFDS on as many of its shows as possible. Additionally, the Board also has accepted an invitation from the NMMA to attend the Miami Boat Show in February 2007 to see how their new program will focus of PFD wear at a major boat show. Additionally, the MRAA has invited the Safety Board to address their Board next month on how their strategy will be executed to support the national initiatives. The U.S. Coast Guard basically was asked to develop and evaluate measures that would advance State safety programs dealing with life jacket wear. Their response has been received and is being evaluated. The NASBLA was asked to include further information in its National Educational Standards addressing high-risk boating populations (adults operating small boats) and small boats (boats less than 21 feet in length). NASBLA’s response has also been received and is being evaluated.

Second, the Board voted only 3 weeks ago to keep State Recreational Boating Safety on the Board’s Most Wanted Safety Improvements list for 2007. The Board’s Safety Recommendations on the list are M-93-1 and M-98-101 issued to States and Territories. This list has proven itself invaluable in discussions before Congress and in State legislative bodies. 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, addressing recreational boating safety education, 34 States, DC, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands have enacted legislation or taken action consistent with our recommendation. In 2006, the Board closed the recommendation for New Mexico, Oklahoma, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Iowa. In 2007, we are looking for safety legislative initiatives in California, Maine, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Virginia, Montana, and perhaps, North Carolina and Minnesota. In regard to the mandatory wear of lifejackets for children; 46 States, the DC, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands have completed a State requirement. In 2006, the Safety Board closed this portion of the recommendation for New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There remain only 4 States (Wyoming, Iowa, Wisconsin, Virginia) the have not taken any action. Bill has informed me that we will have solid efforts planned for State legislatures next year in Wisconsin and Iowa. I plan to meet with officials in Wyoming shortly. In Virginia, we will be patient until the effort to complete recreational boating safety education has run its course. Safety Recommendation M-98-101 addresses the need for persons renting personal watercraft (PWCs) to be provided some safety instruction training prior to operating such a vessels. Presently, 34 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 discuss, is safety of sole State passenger vessels. The Safety Board, as a result of the ETHAN ALLEN casualty, 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 ETHAN ALLEN casualty occurred on Lake George, New York and resulted in 20 deaths. Safety issues addressed in this accident included stability, inspection and certification, and passenger weights. Based on our preliminary survey of States, it appears that safety of uninspected passenger vessels carrying 6 or more passengers on sole State waters falls on the shoulders of our State Boating Law Administrators with the exception of Washington State and Minnesota where Departments of Labor and Industry have that responsibility. Therefore, we have offered an opportunity to the States’ BLAs and the 2 other Departments to travel to Ashburn, Virginia to the Safety Board’s Academy to attend a seminar that will provide the nuts and bolts of instituting a sound inspection and certification program. The Coast Guard and 7 States that currently have inspection programs will present their programs. Of concern to the Safety Board are the large number of States without any programmatic inspection or certification of passenger vessels operating on sole State waters (43, DC and territories). A brief survey completed by Bill Gossard indicates that there are a range of vessels operating as passenger vessels on sole State waters that could total between 1000 and 2000 vessels. Currently, between 26 and 29 States have indicated that they will be attending the seminar. There are some serious issues that will be discussed at this seminar including but 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

If a representative of the Canadian Safe Boating Council would like to attend, please see Bill during the meeting and he will be happy to make sure that you obtain information needed to register.

In conclusion, I again wish to thank the Canadian Safe Boating Council for allowing me to present these remarks. I certainly appreciate the warmth and enthusiasm you provide every time I speak. The world is shrinking and our communications are instantaneous, the safety issues we address I know that you address and of course other countries address. We, at the Safety Board, appreciate the hard work that the Canadian Safe Boating Council has done including the major study on the wear of personal flotation devices (life jackets).

Finally, if you travel to Washington on business or vacation, please stop by and see us.

Thank you.