|THE US COAST GUARD www.uscgboating.org
US Coast Guard is charged with setting regulatory standards for all recreational vessels.
(Code of Federal Regulations/Sec. 33)
While their mandate is clear, their efforts are sorely lacking in resolve. So far we
have seen a series of comment periods regarding regulatory initiatives; several public
meetings; incomplete guidelines for avoiding prop accidents; agenda items for NBSAC
consideration, a study of propeller interventions (no testing or follow-up) and some
comments suggesting industry get on board and voluntarily take care of this problem.
In l999, the advisory council (NBSAC) to the U.S. Coast Guard for recreational boating
safety, passed the following CLEAR AND DIRECTIVE resolution. It was adopted unanimously.
RESOLUTION - NBSAC General Meeting, April 26, 1999
Whereas, The Boat Occupant Sub Committee was asked to develop a "Propeller
Injury Intervention Assessment Tool" at the November 9, 1999 meeting in Pittsburgh,
Pa. to provide direction to the Coast Guard for regulatory interventions, and
Whereas, the final report of the Propeller Injury Protection Grant, awarded by the U.S.
Coast Guard to the Marine Technology Society concluded warning signs "are primarily
important from a liability standpoint" and "that there is no evidence to
indicate that warning signs would have prevented any of the known propeller strikes,"
Whereas, the National Boating Safety Advisory Council unanimously adopted on October 30,
1995 that "it be required
that all livery operations deliver basic boating safety education to their clients at the
time rentals are made", and
Whereas, the Marine Technology Society supports a new boating law requiring houseboat
renter education efforts, and
Whereas, interventions placing known guards have been tested and verified for non-planing
boats at 55 feet or under powered by a 130 H.P. prop engine or under, and
Whereas, interventions of interlocks and sensor systems have demonstrated protection
against propeller strikes, in combination with visual aides,
Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Boat Occupant Protection Sub Committee (adopted
by the National Boating
Advisory council) instruct the Coast Guard to proceed with the development of a
performance standard to prevent and minimize the occurrence of propeller strikes, and
Further be it resolved that the Boat Occupant Protection Sub Committee (adopted by the
National Boating Safety Advisory Council) at its April 25, 1999 meeting in Portland,
Oregon, recommends that the U.S. Coast Guard initiate the widest possible distribution of
the Marine Technology Society report to all insurance companies, marine equipment
manufacturers, rental operations, ste boating law administrators, et al, for the immediate
improvement of protection against propeller strikes in our effort to improve boating
safety for the general public.
FIVE YEARS LATER, and we have no regulation and no performance standards. A challenge
by the Small Business Administration to the Coast Guard's stated intent to regulate
remains unanswered. The statistics continue to substantiate the need to regulate
The Supreme Court has over ruled the USCG pre-emption authority in the MERCURY MARINE V
SPRIESTMA case (docket 01-706) and ruled that in the absence of the Coast Guard
regulations, victims can seek damages under state consumer common law against marine
manufacturers who fail to protect against propeller accidents.
SPIN took the position more than 12 years that this should not be about lawyers and big
judgements. It should be about the marine industry doing their duty for public safety, to
protect the very consumer/client who fills their coffers.
Instead, they avoid the safety issue, refuse to recognize their responsibility, and
weigh their liability against the costs of safety. That was their choice.... so let them
pay in the courts. They selected the playing field by default.
As of 2004, the Coast Guard has yet to enact standards and regulations. Its position
seems to be that either the industry does it on their own or the courts will punish.
Leading by default. Benign neglect of the very industry they are charged to regulate (or
is it a deal?). Its efforts seem little more than bureaucratic posturing with occasional
good words in favor of advocate groups and infant technologies, and failed to follow up on
the two part grant to study existing technologies (concluded in l995). No regulation, no
voluntary standards, no prevention and no closure for the victims and their families.