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Remarks before the 2007 International Boating and Water Safety Summit, San Antonio, TX
Mark V. Rosenker
International Boating and Water Safety Summit, San Antonio, TX

Good morning. Thank you, Chair Ruth Wood, National Boating Safety Council and President Arlyn Hendricks, National Water Safety Congress for inviting me to the 2007 International Boating and Water Safety Summit.    Certainly, San Antonio, Texas, is a great conference location and it is so good to be among friends who work hard day-after-day making our waters safer and enjoyable for all boaters.  Before starting in earnest on the topic of recreational boating safety, I would like to introduce staff here with me today; Bill Gossard from our Office of Safety Recommendations and Advocacy and my counselor Tom Doyle.

For more than a two and one half decades the National Transportation Safety Board has been pleased to work with the National Safe Boating Council and the National Water Safety Congress in advancing recreational boating safety on our Nation's waterways.  It has been the leadership of organizations, such as the National Safe Boating Council and the National Water Safety Congress that has kept the Safety Board engaged in this unique mode of transportation.  This morning I would like to focus on the three critical areas where the Safety Board and the organizations at this Summit  are working together to make the 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 latest issue dealing with  safety of sole State passenger vessels.

First, 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 National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (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, one of the first actions accomplished under this program by the NMMA involved the Outdoor TV Channel, NMMA and the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers who held a joint signing that the TV channel would support the wearing of PFDS on as many of its shows as possible.   I understand that negotiations are nearly completed so that ESPN will also be signing an MOU with the NMMA.    Additionally, the MRAA invited me to address their Board meeting in November in Las Vegas on how their strategy will be executed to support the national initiatives.   NMMA also invited me to assist them in opening the Miami Boat Show, in this case, weather in Washington precluded  my travel and I understand Bill Gossard did a great job subbing for me. The Coast Guard was asked to develop and evaluate measures that would advance State safety programs dealing with life jacket wear.    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).    We have asked all of these organizations to provide some additional information to us before we take action on closing these recommendations.  If you would like our response to these recommendations Bill will provide you copies.

The Board voted in September 2006, to keep a national focus on State Recreational Boating Safety by continuing 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. 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 2006, the Board closed the recommendation for New Mexico, Oklahoma, the US Virgin Islands and Iowa.  In 2007, we have already been successful in enacting a law in Virginia and have legislative initiatives in California and Maine.  
  • 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.  There remain only 4 States (Wyoming, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Virginia) that have not taken any action.  Bill has informed me that we have solid bills introduced in Wisconsin and Iowa for 2007.  I hope to meet with officials in Wyoming shortly and I understand a draft proposal is being circulated.  In Virginia, we expect a legislative barrage in 2008 to complete action in that State.     Although the Board is not completely happy with some States age requirements, we are almost at 100 percent implementation by States of a law addressing this important issue.
  • 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, 35 States, DC, and 4 territories have enacted legislation or taken action consistent with the Board’s recommendation.  There remain 12 States where the Board continues to seek action on this recommendation.

The Safety Board strongly supports safety in every way possible.  Indeed, Safety Board Members and staff have already testified or provided supporting information to  a number of States in the 2007 legislative cycle including but not limited to California, Nevada, Hawaii, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Virginia, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Maine, and Iowa.  This morning, I challenge all of you  to join with us in assisting to complete and accomplish recreational boating safety education, mandatory wear of lifejackets by children, and safety instruction training for persons renting personal watercraft (PWC) at rental locations in every State.  We particularly will need your assistance in States such as Virginia (PFDs for children), Iowa (PFDs for children), Wisconsin (PFDs for children), Wyoming (PFDs for children), Maine (education), Massachusetts (education), California (education), South Carolina (education), and Montana (education) to name a few.  If you can help us in these States, please see Bill anytime during this Summit to make sure he has your contact information.

The third area, I would like to discuss, is safety of sole State passenger vessels.  The Safety Board, as a result of the ETHAN ALLEN casualty on Lake George, New York,  held a training seminar on October 4-5, 2006, at the Safety Board’s training center in Ashburn, Virginia, the Coast Guard and 7 States provided the nuts and bolts of their inspection and certification programs for small passenger vessels.    I am pleased to report that 27 States and Puerto Rico were in attendance.  NASBLA’s leadership, including past President Charlie Sledd and current President Jeff Johnson were  personally involved in making this a terrific training seminar.   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 of small passenger 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/incident

As a result of this training seminar the Safety Board and the United States Coast Guard agreed to undertake a comparative review of the Coast Guard’s regulations addressing small passenger vessels and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Model Act for Charter Boat Safety.  The Safety Board and the Coast Guard completed that review and I have sent a letter dated march 1, 2007,  to NASBLA enclosing that review.  We and the Coast Guard standby to assist NASBLA in making changes to its Model Act.    I also understand that a few States are already reviewing their programs and at least 3 States have introduced or considered some type of legislation, most notably New York State (inspection, operator license, insurance, modification and stability requirements), Tennessee (operator license), and the latest Texas (operator license, inspection, and insurance). 

In conclusion, I would like to thank all of you here today for supporting us in accomplishing our recommendations in making the Nation’s waterways safer.   It truly has been a partnership of success.   As always my office is open to you if you travel to Washington, so please call and arrange a visit.