U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer is proposing legislation that would require the U.S. Coast Guard to develop capacity limits for recreational boats over 20 feet in length and have those limits be visibly posted onboard to educate and warn operators and their passengers of the vessels' total passenger capabilities and weight load.
In July, Schumer asked the U.S. Coast Guard to voluntarily adopt these regulations in light of the death of three children when a 34-foot Silverton boat carrying 27 passengers capsized in Cove Neck following a July 4 fireworks show. While an investigation examining the reasons for the vessel's capsizing is ongoing, there have been numerous questions raised about overall capacity capabilities for such vessels. Schumer introduced the Boating Capacity Standards Act of 2012, which will require the Coast Guard to develop capacity limits for boats over 20 feet in length and require capacity limits to be posted on all new boats to help prevent future tragedies.
"This tragedy shocked New Yorkers and Americans across the country, and we vowed to do everything we could from prevent it from happening again. Because the U.S. Coast Guard refuses to step up to the plate and require boats to post capacity limits, today I'm introducing legislation requiring them to do so," Schumer said. "The Boat Capacity Standards Act of 2012 will ensure that all boaters, no matter the size of their vessel, are aware of how many people should be on board, and will help honor the memory of the children who died on that terrible day."
In his letter to the U.S. Coast Guard in July, Schumer noted that the vessel that capsized last week was 34-feet-long and, because it was longer than 20 feet, did not require a U.S. Coast Guard Capacity Information plaque onboard. Schumer argued that such a visibly displayed plaque can help dissuade boat owners, or passengers, from overcrowding a vessel, serving to prevent future tragedies from occurring. Schumer pointed out that the Coast Guard has the clear regulatory authority, and responsibility, to develop regulations for the promotion of safety of life as expressed in Title 14 section 2 of the U.S. Code. Schumer called on the Coast Guard to also require that those limits be posted visibly to a passenger boarding the vessel.
Schumer also cited the accident in which the Ethan Allen, a 40-foot boat, capsized and sank on Lake George on Oct. 2, 2005. The boat held 47 passengers, and 20 died. Originally constructed to accommodate 48 passengers, the Ethan Allen had been modified with a canopy that should have lowered the capacity to 14 passengers. That accident also caused regulators to consider new laws related to boat capacity limits. Schumer highlighted that whether boaters are on the ocean, rivers or upstate New York's lakes, developing new capacity limits and clearly posting them is critical.