SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS Tables
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RECREATIONAL BOATING SAFETY
COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION
TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SEVENTH CONGRESS
MAY 15, 2001
Printed for the use of the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin, Vice-Chair
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
STEPHEN HORN, California
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
SUE W. KELLY, New York
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
ROBERT W. NEY, Ohio
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska
MICHAEL K. SIMPSON, Idaho
JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
ROB SIMMONS, Connecticut
MIKE ROGERS, Michigan
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, West Virginia
MARK STEVEN KIRK, Illinois
HENRY E, BROWN, Jr., South Carolina
TIMOTHY V. JOHNSON, Illinois
BRIAN D. KERNS, Indiana
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCDENNIS R. REHBERG, Montana
TODD RUSSELL PLATTS, Pennsylvania
MIKE FERGUSON, New Jersey
SAM GRAVES, Missouri
C.L. (BUTCH) OTTER, Idaho
MARK R. KENNEDY, Minnesota
JOHN ABNEY CULBERSON, Texas
BILL SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
BOB FILNER, California
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCGENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
EARL BLUMENAUER, Oregon
MAX SANDLIN, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
BILL PASCRELL, Jr., New Jersey
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
JAMES P. McGOVERN, Massachusetts
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
NICK LAMPSON, Texas
JOHN ELIAS BALDACCI, Maine
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
BRIAN BAIRD, Washington
SHELLEY BERKLEY, Nevada
BRAD CARSON, Oklahoma
JIM MATHESON, Utah
MICHAEL M. HONDA, California
RICK LARSEN, Washington
SUBCOMMITTEE ON COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION
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FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
ROB SIMMONS, Connecticut, Vice-Chair
DON YOUNG, Alaska
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
Baron, Dr. Robert Lloyd, M.D., Medical Director, Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, Lake Powell, Arizona
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Cross, Rear Admiral Terry M., Assistant Commandant for Operations, United States Coast Guard, and Commodore Viggo C. Bertelsen, Jr., United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
Dixey, Kenneth M. and Bambi Lynn, Parker, Colorado
Fine, Dr. Lawrence J., M.D., Acting Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Hayworth, Hon. J.D., a Representative in Congress from Arizona
McConnell, Mary, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Genmar Holdings, Inc., and Chairman, Government Relations Committee, National Marine Manufacturers Association
McInnis, Hon. Scott, a Representative in Congress from Colorado
Muldoon, James, Chairman, National Boating Safety Advisory Council
Sciulla, Michael, Vice President, Boat Owners of the United States
Wilson, Michael, Arkansas Boating Law Administrator, President, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC LoBiondo, Hon. Frank A., of New Jersey
McInnis, Hon. Scott, of Colorado
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY WITNESSES
Baron, Dr. Robert Lloyd
Bertelsen, Commodore Viggo C., Jr
Cross, Rear Admiral Terry M
Dixey, Kenneth M. and Bambi Lynn
Fine, Dr. Lawrence J
SUBMISSION FOR THE RECORD
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Cross, Rear Admiral Terry M., Assistant Commandant for Operations, United States Coast Guard, and Commodore Viggo C. Bertelsen, Jr., United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, responses to questions
ADDITIONS TO THE RECORD
Kopytko, Phyllis L., Director, Stop Propeller Injuries Now! (SPIN!),
The following exhibits submitted by Ms. Kopytko are contained in the files of the Subcomittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation:
''Emilio's Mom'' Presentation to NBSAC Committee 1993 - Who was listening?, video of the presentation, and video of previous news reports, guard tests, interviews, etc.
Testimonials, Sampling of Victims Testimony
''Motor Boat Propeller Injuries'' by Jon Vernick in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins University Injury Prevention Center and the Institute for Injury Reduction, 1992 - a historical review and recommendations
Medical/Legal Professional Opinions
USCG Grant ''Propeller Injury Protection: An Evaluation of the State of Recreational Water Craft Propulsion Systems.'' 1996-1998
MariTech Industries, previously dba Propeller Safety Techologies
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCNBSAC - change of attitude
Common Interests/Same old scenario: Coalition of Families and Victims for Personal Water Craft Safety
Photos of Injuries
Maritech Industries, Keith Jackson, President, letter and attachments
Personal Watercraft Steering, Public Concern, Procrastination/Avoidance, issue paper
de Cruz, Marion Irving, Founder/Director of SPIN, statement and issue paper
RECREATIONAL BOATING SAFETY
Tuesday, May 15, 2001
House of Representatives, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Washington, D.C.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2:00 p.m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Frank A. LoBiondo [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Good afternoon. The Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation will come to order.
Before I get started, let me make mention that votes are not until 6:00 o'clock tonight. So we have many members that are still traveling from their district. The fact that we don't have a full committee is not that there are members who don't care about this issue. We'll make sure that we fully convey and talk to them, those of us who are on the Committee, as well as Congressman McInnis and Congressman Hayworth.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on recreational boating safety. As you know, we will limit opening statements to the Chairman and ranking Democratic member. If other members have statements, they will certainly be included in the record.
I would like to now recognize the ranking Democratic member, Ms. Brown, for any statement she may have.
Ms. BROWN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, first of all, for scheduling today's hearing on boating safety. In the year 2000, over 72 million Americans participated in recreational boating activities. Yet the number of boating fatalities has decreased from 821 in 1997 to about 700 in 2000. The success in reducing the number of fatalities is due in large part to the teamwork between the Coast Guard, State boating laws administrators, manufacturing, boat safety education and many other organizations involved in boating.
However, it will take a continued effort by all of the people to further decrease the number of Americans killed every year on our waterways. This Saturday begins National Safe Boating Week, a week dedicated to helping the public enjoy boating in a safe manner. There is one issue that I would like to emphasize for safety boating week. That is the assignment of CG by the cellular telephone industry for emergency calls to the Coast Guard. Over the past decade, more and more Americans are carrying cellular phones with them, including on their boats.
I am pleased to recognize these wireless companies. Verizon allows many of its customers to call the Coats Guard using CG. However, the use of CG is not universal. For example, in Woods Hole, Rhode Island, CG will reach the Coast Guard if you use a Verizon phone. However, if you happen to be using a Sprint cellular, it says invalid code, enter. On Cellular One and Nexus, you get, call cannot be completed as dialed.
Even within a single cellular telephone company, designation of CG for emergency communication is not universal. For example, Verizon has CG connections in Seattle and Massachusetts, but not in Norfolk, Virginia. Mr. Chairman, when a boater is in distress, they need to be able to reach the local Coast Guard unit as soon as possible. They may not have a VHF radio on board, and the only way to reach the Coast Guard is by reaching their cellular telephone. Time is of essence, and they cannot wait to go to the operator to reach the nearest Coast Guard unit.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Today I would like to call on the U.S. cellular phone industry to designate CG as the nationwide phone number for boaters to reach the Coast Guard during an emergency using cellular phones, and ask them to program their networks to route these calls to the nearest appropriate Coast Guard facility. They can join the coalition of people in the United States striving to save boaters' lives once these companies are on board.
Again, thank you, Mr. Chairman, for scheduling today's hearing. I'm looking forward to listening and learning from the witnesses on steps that we can take to make boating safer than ever before.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Ms. Brown.
Each year, an estimated 75 million Americans, almost one-fourth of our population, enjoy recreational boating. Since the early 1970s, the number of recreational boaters has doubled. Today in my home State of New Jersey, there are over 220,000 registered boats. As such, we must be increasingly mindful of the importance of recreational boating safety for both experienced boaters and for people who are new to the water.
Boating safety in the United States is made up of two stories. The bad news is that since the mid-1990s, an average of 750 people have died annually in accidents related to boating. The very good news is that the number of recreational boating deaths has been cut in half since the early 1970s, coinciding with the enactment of the Federal Boating Safety Act of 1971.
The Federal Boating Safety Act authorized the Coast Guard to establish uniform manufacturing design standards for recreational vessels. The Act also created the first Federal assistance for States to carry out recreational boating safety programs. Today, the State Recreational Boating Safety Grant Program is assisting in all 50 States in promoting boating safety. This program, along with other Federal-State boating safety activities, has been successful in dramatically reducing boating fatalities. This Subcommittee will be holding future hearings focused on the increasing need of States for additional resources to devote to recreational vessel safety.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Much has been accomplished. But I believe we can and must do more to meet the needs of boating safety. Statistics show that most deaths result from drowning, and half of those deaths are preventable by wearing life jacket or other approved floatation device. Even good and experienced boaters can be helped tremendously by wearing a life jacket. A recent article quoted boating safety specialist for the Coast Guard as saying that ''without the life jacket, you are fighting to survive, you are fighting for your life.''
I also want to take a moment to thank the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxiliary for the great job they are doing in promoting recreational boating safety. In my own district in southern New Jersey, we are well served by the men and women of the Auxiliary's Fifth Coast Guard Division, who help educate boaters of all experience levels about the right way to do enjoy the water and be safe while boating.
Finally, I want to thank my two colleagues, Congressman Scott McInnis, and Congressman J.D. Hayworth, more than political colleagues, good friends, for bringing the problem associated with carbon monoxide poisoning on houseboats to the Committee's attention. I've had numerous and long conversations with both Scott and J.D., with them explaining to me the problem, understanding the devastation that has taken place, and our need to examine this carefully to make sure that we're doing everything possible to avoid these tragedies in the future. I want to again thank Congressman McInnis and Congressman Hayworth for bringing it to my attention and for being so proactive on this issue.
Next week is National Safe Boating Week and the slogan for the week is ''Boat Smart from the Start.'' As we close in on Memorial Day, the traditional start of the boating season, I encourage all boaters to follow this advice and enjoy the water.
Now I'm very pleased once again to welcome Congressman Scott McInnis for your statement and testimony.
STATEMENT OF HON. SCOTT MCINNIS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM COLORADO
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Mr. MCINNIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Ranking Member and Mr. Coble, Mr. Simmons. I appreciate the time that the Committee has designated today for this very important matter that we want to bring before you.
As you know, it is very important that we have public awareness about the tragedy that we're about to explore. I think it's necessary that we continue to probe the design flaws associated with certain rear venting houseboats. This is a flaw that you could compare to the venom of a deadly snake. It happens quickly and the result is instantaneous.
I have a family here today, two families actually, representing two young boys, brothers, who died off a houseboat, deaths that could have been avoided. The tragic passing of these two boys has struck me deeply and personally. It led me, along with my colleagues, to push for a recall of the houseboats that were improperly designed and Congressional hearings, on which the Chairman has gone out of his way to assist us and accommodate us.
I should add that the design that is at issue, there's no question about the defect. This is not something that is subject to debate, well, did this really cause it. It is the cause, and the result is very clear, as will be displayed by the family.
After we requested time with the Coast Guard, specifically Admiral Loy, who is the Commandant of the Coast Guard, the overall boss, the Coast Guard issued a recall and of course today, we're here to conduct a much-needed oversight and a very important point to raise both public and boater awareness about this issue.
I want to thank the Coast Guard, and I want to thank the attention that they've given it under this current management. We haven't always had this kind of management. We asked the Coast Guard, not myself specifically, but this problem was brought to the attention of the Coast Guard six years ago, and it was ignored. It was again brought to their attention, it wasn't given much attention. In the meantime, the tragedies of the family sitting to my right could have been avoided had somebody picked up the mantle and run with it, had somebody grabbed that snake and cut its head off. And it was very easy to do. But it wasn't done.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But that's not the current management of the Coast Guard. They've been very cooperative, and I want to commend them today publicly for their cooperation.
This brings me back to the Dixeys. I want to tell you, you're about to hear from a very, like any other American, all American family. This is an all American family. I don't know how they've survived the losses that they had that day. I can tell you that the incident, the poisonings occurred around 7:00 o'clock or 8:00 o'clock in the evening. Because of the severe weather, despite extensive rescue efforts, they couldn't get into the boat, the weather prevented it.
So these families lay together, these three people right there, and Mark's wife, they all lay together and just held on to each other for seven hours and held their little boys, their children that survived this, all just like a little bundle, and waited and waited and waited, until somebody could come there to help them out. I used to be a cop, as you know, Mr. Chairman. I've been involved in a number of different tragedies. I've not seen one, obviously some have been preventable. But I'm not sure I've seen one that's moved me like this one has with the family.
The loss of these boys should give a message to all of us. That is, let's fix the problem. The problem is there. The Coast Guard is helping us with this with this recall. But it's not something that we have to study and study and study. We can stop it. As the Chairman has very eloquently stated, this is the beginning of boating season. If ever there ought to be a red flashing light as you go down the ramp to get into your slip to get onto your boat, it ought to be, be aware of what this poison does. Watch this snake in the water.
We hope to be able, Mr. Chairman, again thanks to your cooperation with this hearing, to collect more statistics so we can see what kind of magnitude this problem really is. When I first brought this problem to the attention of one of my colleagues, the response was, well, that's in Lake Powell, out there in the west. I said, no, no it's not Lake Powell. These are houseboats that are built and distributed throughout the country. This is not one specific houseboat that's put down there.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I made a trip, Mr. Chairman, down to Lake Powell shortly after this to go and take a look at the rental boats that, the Government has a concessionaire who in turn rents boats. It was interesting, these boats had side ventilation, not rear ventilation. You'll hear the exact dynamics of how this occurs.
These boats had side ventilation, which isn't totally safe, but it's safer, and these boats had carbon monoxide warnings in them. I asked the man there, the maintenance man there, I said, well, how is this working out? He told me, he said, you know, most of these boats come back with these detectors disconnected because people think they're not working. In fact, they are working.
Of course, the Dixey's boat was not a side vent, this was a rear vent, and it traps it underneath the swimming platform. We'll get into more of that later.
Let me wrap it up, Mr. Chairman, by saying that my goal in having these hearings and requesting these hearings, along with my colleagues and of course along with the many discussions I've had with the Chairman, is that I think we can avoid one more death. I think we can avoid a lot more deaths by our action today, by the action of the Coast Guard, by the committed, the absolutely committed, unrestrained, desire and dedication by this family to relive their tragedy over and over again.
We have asked this family to tell their story and tell their story. Every time they tell this story, as any of us could imagine with our own children, it's like a shot in the gut. It's a terrible thing for them, but they're willing to do that, because they never want to see another little boy or a little girl laid out on a beach towel, while they're waiting for somebody to come help them out. Because the deaths could have been avoided.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Congressman McInnis.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF HON. J.D. HAYWORTH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM ARIZONA
Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I thank you and the members of the Subcommittee for your leadership in scheduling this hearing. We look at the calendar, we see Memorial Day fast approaching, a day where we remember the sacrifices of our veterans. Yet, we are mindful of the fact that Memorial Day can sadly lead to other sacrifices through negligence, through a lack of proper understanding of boating safety.
And Mr. Chairman, my colleagues on the Subcommittee, I would be remiss if I did not also thank the Coast Guard, especially the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Arizona. There's a misnomer about the State of Arizona. The cheap attempt at humor is, we have a lot of sand, very little surf. Yet we have many lakes, many boating owners and enthusiasts. And the efforts of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, in terms of boating safety, are greatly appreciated.
Would that every American boater take the time to learn from the Coast Guard Auxiliary, from other knowledgeable people. We could eliminate many accidents.
As my colleague from Colorado so eloquently stated, today there is another reason for coming here. And yes, we can turn to statistics. We can look at studies. But today, we will be dealing with a very human equation. We are called on, in the Congress of the United States, to comment, to comment on developments in the world, to try to make sense of tragedies, to offer our viewpoint on a variety of issues. And yet, no matter how well spoken a member of Congress fancies himself or herself, we can offer no words of solace that can begin to compensate or deal with the losses confronted by the Dixey family.
Today, we're confronted with a rare opportunity, Mr. Chairman, not as Republicans or Democrats or Libertarians or vegetarians, but as Americans, to take a serious look at houseboat safety, to understand that a variety of factors may be at work here. But as my colleague from Colorado points out, as many ground breaking articles in the Arizona Republic have pointed out, steps can be taken. Some of those steps have been taken. But I hope that as a people and as a Congress, we can focus on what works.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Would that we could pass a resolution or law that would prevent further fatalities. While we can't offer that guarantee today, Mr. Chairman, we can make an important step forward to deal with this silent killer, to work to solve this problem. I know, Mr. Chairman, we'll be hearing from not only the Dixey family, but also from Dr. Robert Baron of Phoenix, an emergency room physician who, through his work with the Park Service, has really chronicled the causes of these deaths.
Let me thank the Subcommittee again, let me thank the Dixey family and others who will testify, from the Coast Guard to Coast Guard Auxiliary, and today, let us take that first step to focus on what works, and to prevent these tragedies in the future.
I thank the Chairman and the Subcommittee.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Mr. Hayworth. That's exactly the intent, to take the first step, to make sure that we can be exploring all possibilities. I can assure you that Chairman Young and Ranking Member Oberstar will be extremely interested in the testimony that is being given today and helping to work in a cooperative way to find solutions to prevent tragedies in all matter of boating in the future.
I thank you both very much, Scott, J.D.
We'll now introduce the second panel. Rear Admiral Cross, Assistant Commandant for Operations, United States Coast Guard, and Commodore Bertelsen, of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. I welcome you both. I will remind our witnesses that we will ask them to limit their testimony to five minutes. If it is anywhere close, we'll certainly give leeway, we won't strictly adhere to it. But hopefully, you'll be mindful of it.
With that, Rear Admiral Cross, the floor is yours.
STATEMENT OF REAR ADMIRAL TERRY M. CROSS, ASSISTANT COMMANDANT FOR OPERATIONS, UNITED STATES COAST GUARD, AND COMMODORE VIGGO C. BERTELSEN, JR., UNITED STATES COAST GUARD AUXILIARY
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Admiral CROSS. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to testify before you here this morning. I have prepared a written statement we provided your staff. I ask that that be included in the record.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Without objection.
Admiral CROSS. I have a short opening statement, if I might. Sir, if there were four points that I would ask the members of the Committee to take away from the hearing today regarding the recreational boating safety program, they would be to make sure that you understand that the Coast Guard embraces its prevention programs with the same zeal that we approach our response programs. In fact, the boating safety program is a prevention program.
Two, I would point out that the boating safety program works, as you pointed out in your statement. We've provided a chart over here. Three, it's been a team effort. And four, we do understand that we have more work to do. Perhaps if I could embellish just a little bit.
To talk in terms of how the Coast Guard embraces prevention programs, when I took my job as the Commander of the 17th Coast Guard District four years ago, I sent a message to all the members of the district outlining my priorities. Among my highest priorities was an emphasis on Coast Guard prevention programs, our fishing vessel safety program and our recreational boating safety program.
I did that because when we prevent an accident, three good things happen. First, there are no victims. Second, it costs us less money to prevent an accident than it does to respond to one. And third, when we prevent an accident, Coast Guard people are not put at risk to respond to those accidents.
Second, the boating safety program works. I've provided a chart over here, and I think the numbers certainly align with the statements you made earlier. The green line indicates the number of registered boats in the Nation, and the blue line indicates the number of fatalities. Since 1971, when the Federal Boating Safety Act was passed, the number of recreational boats registered in this country has more than doubled, while fatalities have been cut more than in half. You can reach a conclusion by looking at that chart that over 25,000 lives have been saved.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Third, I said it was a team effort, and nothing could be further from the truth. The Boating Safety Act, in fact, the thrust of the Boating Safety Act, was to devolve from the Coast Guard and give to the States most of the responsibilities for education and enforcement. They've certainly done far more than their fair share. But it's been a cooperative effort, Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, States, State boating law administrators, Boating Safety, the National Safety Council, National Water Safety Congress, the American Boat and Yacht Council, manufacturers and even insurance companies have been very helpful.
Finally, let me note that we understand that we have much more work to do. I would refer you once again to the chart where you can see for the last few years, the downward trend in fatalities has kind of leveled out. Even though one could argue that we were still making progress due to these continued increases in the number of registered boats, we think it was worthy of review.
For example, a year ago, we used some of the grant funds provided to do a study to see if we were targeting the right people. We learned that maybe we needed to broaden our focus a bit. For example, we learned that 33 percent of the fatalities are hunters and fishermen, not the typical recreational boater that we think of. We learned that 17 percent of fatalities involve canoes and kayaks. So we have efforts underway as I speak to broaden our focus to make sure we do a better job of reaching those people, as well as the typical recreational boating public that we think of.
That concludes my statement.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Admiral.
Commodore BERTELSEN. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. It is my pleasure to appear this morning and I thank you for inviting me to testify on behalf of the Coast Guard Auxiliary to discuss the National Recreational Boating Safety Program.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have prepared remarks for the record, but I would like to summarize a couple of points. The Auxiliary is now 62 years old, and since our founding, we have helped the Coast Guard serve the public. Recently, in the passage of the 1996 Coast Guard Appropriations Bill, sponsored by this Committee, our mission areas have been increased to any purposes that the Commandant wishes to use us for. That of course excludes military operations and direct law enforcement. So we have now been enabled to assist the Coast Guard in the broadest of opportunities.
Our main mission, however, remains recreational boating safety. In that arena, a major thrust is in the education area, with public education courses where we teach over 170,000 people a year in various courses to enable them to enhance their knowledge of boating safety, and their skills in recreational boating subjects.
In addition to that, we have a program managed by the Auxiliary, but includes other providers, where we conduct vessel safety checks, a one on one educational experience where we meet with the boat owner and the other occupants of the boat to examine their carriage of safety equipment that is required by Federal law, to assure that that equipment is in working condition, and more importantly, to assure that the occupants of the boat know how to use that equipment. Again, a one-on-one educational experience for the boater.
Further, our members call on marine dealers, marinas and others involved in the marine industry with recreational boating to provide literature, advice and counsel so that they may also join in supporting the recreational boating safety cause by informing and educating the recreational boater.
With respect to our support of the Coast Guard, we are active in safety patrols, essentially becoming a force multiplier for Coast Guard resources in the operations and safety areas of the Coast Guard. Most recently, in view of the tragic deaths of those two young boys in Arizona on Lake Powell, we redoubled our emphasis on the dangers of carbon monoxide as we talked with boaters, as we taught prospective boaters in our public education classes. Carbon monoxide is an insidious problem in many areas, particularly in these houseboat situations. Education and information can help to inform and advise and warn people of this hidden, silent danger.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our main effort in all of our activities focuses on education, trying to help boaters understand that water recreation is a lot of fun, but is inherently risky, but the risks can be managed if you know what you're doing and are careful. We rarely rescue well informed people in well found vessels doing the right thing in good weather.
Thank you very much.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Commodore, very much.
I think it would be worthwhile noting that thedo you know off-hand the total number of men and women in the Auxiliary?
Commodore BERTELSEN. There are about 33,000. I have an exact number if you'd like.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Well, that's close enough. And of course, you double their pay every year, right?
Commodore BERTELSEN. Absolutely.
Mr. LOBIONDO. I think it's worth noting, not just for this Committee, but all of America, the men and women of the Coast Guard Auxiliary who give so much of their time and resources to keep our waterways safe and to help others. It's a totally voluntary effort that is very, very much appreciated. I don't think we say thank you often enough.
Admiral Cross, let me take the opportunity to congratulate you as being in charge of operations for the very recent, I guess it was just a few days ago, the drug bust, the very large drug bust that took place by the Coast Guard. I know that follows on the heels of a large one that was not that long ago. So I want to thank you very much for your efforts as well.
Admiral Cross, Congressman McInnis commended Admiral Loy and his efforts in regard to the carbon monoxide poisoning that took place, but also made some comments about the situation being handled soon enough by the Coast Guard, and Mr. McInnis' feeling that it was not. I'd like you, if you would, to comment on that statement, talk a little bit about what are the Coast Guard's efforts in this particular area, and where you believe we might or could go from here.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Admiral CROSS. Yes, sir, I'd be pleased to do that.
Let me begin by saying all of us in the Coast Guard spend most of our careers, and I know you're aware of this, Congressman, in an effort to help people. In fact, many of our people on a daily basis put their own lives at risk to save the lives of others. Consequently, I think everyone understands that the Coast Guard feels terribly, all the people in the Coast Guard feel badly any time a life is lost on the water.
In this particular instance, when we originally received information about the problem on Lake Powell, we checked our data bases. Our data bases are provided by information we get from the States. We couldn't correlate the information and consequently it didn't arise as a problem that we thought would be initially a problem that the Coast Guard should address.
In fact, let me be clearer. These particular fatalities, the carbon monoxide fatalities, did not even appear in Coast Guard data bases, because the information as it's provided from the States, those fatalities were listed as swimming fatalities, not boating fatalities. Consequently, the information wasn't even passed to the Coast Guard.
I feel terrible that we weren't able to be smarter about this problem sooner than we were. Once we understood the problem, and Congressman McINnis I think deserves a lot of credit for helping bring that to our attention, I think we acted as quickly and responsibly as we could have. We worked quickly to develop a list of all of those manufacturers that manufactured boats with this particular defect.
We forwarded a letter to all of the houseboat manufacturers. Subsequent to that, we gave them 30 days to respond to us as required by the statute. We subsequently identified six manufacturers that manufactured the boats with the aft exhaust. And all of them volunteered to come forward and do voluntary recalls. Those recall efforts are in fact underway.
One thing I will note is that the statute as currently written only requires the manufacturers to recall boats with safety defects that are less than five years old. As it turns out, most of these boats are older than five years old. Nevertheless, the manufacturers have agreed to recall and pay for the redirecting of the carbon monoxide venting.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What's not to be done, probably a couple of things. First of all, there's some relatively new technology having to do with venting. There's a vertical vent that was exhibited at a recent meeting that the Coast Guard held and manufacturers and other safety councils and safety groups attended on the 3rd of May which were taking a look at these particular issues. One was a wet-dry generator exhaust system that used a vertical stack that looks like it might be very promising. However, it hasn't been thoroughly tested and we're not ready to endorse that yet.
Also, there's an after burner catalyst that reduces the levels of carbon monoxide in exhaust that may prove beneficial in the future. But as of right now, we think the current fix of venting to the side is probably the best that's available now.
The other issue I think we need to address is the reporting system, the accident and fatality reporting system. We are working that issue with the States as we speak. The basis for that, understand that all of our data essentially comes from the individual States.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Admiral.
Would it be wrong for me to make the statement that the Coast Guard has by no means put this issue behind them and feels that they're not looking at it any more, that you're going to continue to look at this very closely as we move along with other options that present themselves and other alternatives that can help prevent tragedies in the future? Can you assure us of that?
Admiral CROSS. Yes, sir, I can assure you of that. In addition to the efforts in terms of reviewing how the States report this information to the Coast Guard, we believe that one of the keys to boating safety, probably the key issue, is an educated boater. And Commodore Bertelsen spoke to that. Congresswoman Brown mentioned earlier that we're about to start Boating Safety Week.
We've made the entire carbon monoxide issue a centerpiece of this year's Boating Safety Week effort. In fact, it's going to last much longer than a week. Our two operational commanders, the Commander of the Atlantic Area and Commander of the Pacific Area have teamed together, along with the Headquarters, to develop an operation called Boat Smart. That's an extra push to get all of those organizations, volunteers, State, local agencies that work the boating safety problem together so that we can have a concentrated effort, not just for a week, but over the course of the entire year. And the carbon monoxide issue will be a centerpiece of that effort.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you. I would like for us, I know we can't do it right now, but keep in mind that I want to discuss very soon after this hearing the time frame with regularity, with close regularity, that we can expect to hear from you on this particular issue, and how we as either a subcommittee or full committee or as all of Congress can be helpful with recommendations that you come forward with.
I have some additional questions, but let me move now to Ms. Brown.
Ms. BROWN. Thank you. First of all, let me join my colleagues in thanking you, Commodore, for the Coast Guard Auxiliary support service. I don't know what we would do without you, 30,000 people volunteering. Thank you, thank you.
I have a question for Admiral Cross. On the issue of the cellular phone companies, the CGs as an emergency phone number to reach out to the nearest Coast Guard facility when a boater is in distress, does the Coast Guard have any type of programs to systematically reach out to the individual cellular phone companies?
Admiral CROSS. We do not currently have a dialogue with specific cellular phone companies. Can I expand on that just a little bit?
Ms. BROWN. Yes, please.
Admiral CROSS. From our perspective, we would prefer that boaters, as a primary means of communicating with the Coast Guard, employ VHF FM radios. We certainly applaud the idea of using a cellular phone as a backup, and if that's all you have available, then certainly, you should try to use that.
We like the VHF FM radio, we prefer that for a couple of reasons. First of all, the coverage is more complete. Second and perhaps more importantly, when you use a cell phone to try to contact the Coast Guard, you're only talking to the Coast Guard, assuming you can get through, and you've noted a number of problems with that.
When you use your VHF FM radio, you're not only talking to the Coast Guard, but you're talking virtually to all the other boaters within about a 20 mile radius of where you're making that radio call from. Consequently, the nearest help may not be the Coast Guard. It may be another boater.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. BROWN. I have another question. The Boating Safety Advisory Committee has set a resolution recommending measures that can be taken to help prevent the 33 to 37 deaths that occur annually from people being struck by propellers. Is the Coast Guard going to implement the advisory committee recommendation? And I want to also note that we have a Mrs. de Cruz, I think she's here, that traveled all the way from California, whose son passed away in one of these accidents.
Mrs. de Cruz, would you just stand? Thank you very much for coming.
Admiral CROSS. Yes, ma'am, let me respond to that. Maybe first of all, I should thank Jim Muldoon and just the terrific job that the Boating Safety Advisory Council does. Once again, those are volunteers as well, and we take very seriously the recommendations that they provide us.
What we've done with regard to that particular recommendation is that we're currently putting together a regulatory work plan. That is the first step in the regulation development process, so the answer is yes, we're absolutely taking it very seriously, and we're moving forward through the process with that recommendation.
Ms. BROWN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Ms. Brown.
Mr. SIMMONS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A couple of questions.
We focused a little bit on the carbon monoxide issue, which is a very serious issue and something that we need to do additional work on. But I wanted to inquire briefly about the issue of propeller strike accidents. Governor Lowell Weicker, the former Governor of the State of Connecticut, his son Scott was injured and nearly killed by a propeller strike accident. An constituent of mine lost her husband and her arm in a propeller strike accident.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It's my understanding that there is an organization called SPIN which focused on this issue and which has encouraged boat manufacturers and the Coast Guard to support propeller guards for certain types of vessels. What is the Coast Guard's current decision on that issue, Admiral Cross, through the Chairman?
Admiral CROSS. Sir, we've recognized this as a problem. And it's been brought to us with recommendations from the Boating Safety Advisory Council. We have taken that recommendation and we're moving it forward under the regulatory regime as provided for in the Boating Safety Act. So that's where we are. We're currently in the work plan effort.
In the work plan portion of the regulatory process is an important part of the process. That's where we lay out the specifics of the types of remedies that we would seek and we deal with manufacturers and others, so that we can be sure that what we come forward with will in fact, at least as sure as we can be before we go to the public comment phase of the process that the proposals that we're going to move forward with will actually be successful.
Mr. SIMMONS. Thank you. Second question, the State of Connecticut has a boating safety certificate which all new boat operators are required to have. Older boat operators are grandfathered in. It works very successfully in Connecticut, but Connecticut's shoreline is visited by boaters from other States who are not required to have these certificates. So there continues to be a relatively high incidence of inexperienced boaters out there recreationally in our waters.
Has any consideration been given to mandating at a Federal level boating safety courses and certificates for operation in populated coastal areas?
Admiral CROSS. Sir, to date what we've done is attempt to harmonize regulations among the States. As I mentioned in my opening statement, one of the main thrusts of the Boating Safety Act was to essentially develop from the Coast Guard education and enforcement responsibilities to the States.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As of yesterday, I think there were 33 States that required boater education courses. My understanding is that Governor Glendenning signed a bill today making it 34 States. So you're correct, there are still others that do not.
To date, our efforts have been focused on harmonizing the requirement across the States.
Mr. SIMMONS. Thank you. Final question, Mr. Chairman, if I could, on the issue of propeller strike accidents. I have a constituent that wanted to testify today, could not make it to the hearing. I would ask the Chairman if I could insert that testimony and the supporting documents into the record of this hearing.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Yes, without objection, so ordered.
Mr. SIMMONS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Mr. Simmons. We're very, very pleased to welcome the Ranking Member of the full Transportation Committee, Congressman Oberstar, joining us today, a very valued member of the Committee with great insight. Jim, thank you for being here. The floor is yours.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I compliment you and Ranking Member Brown on initiating these hearings on recreational boating safety. It's a very important way in which to begin your leadership, in both cases, on this Committee.
We have millions, millions of boaters in America. In Michigan alone, recreational boating is a $3 billion economic sector. In Minnesota, it's our first or second industry, depending on which way you calculate, it's another two plus billion dollars. Most people in the northern part of my district don't consider themselves respectable if they don't have a boat and a motor.
And the tragedies in the waters have gone down, boating, recreational boating safety, has improved considerably, in large part due to the funding we've provided through legislative action by the Congress and the noteworthy work and leadership of the Coast Guard in conducting training sessions to improve boating safety. But still, 700 to 800 deaths a year exceeds the number killed at railroad grade crossings, it exceeds the number of bicyclists killed each year on American streets and roadways. And it is and must continue to be the goal of the recreational boating sector together with the Coast Guard and the State agencies to reduce that number. Education is the cornerstone upon which we achieve these goals and objectives.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to also compliment our two colleagues, Mr. McInnis and Mr. Hayworth from Arizona, on their concern about the issue at hand, the carbon monoxide poisoning.
The boat manufacturers have raised concern, Admiral and Commodore, about increasing the recall authority from five to ten years. How do you differentiate boat safety defects subject to recall from parts that simply may wear out and parts that are subject to a manufacturer's warranty?
Admiral CROSS. Yes, sir, I think that's a very good and important question. Essentially the response would be that when we take a look at defects, we're looking at design flaws, built into a vessel, that would substantially increase the risk of personnel operating the vessel, as opposed to, for example, as you mentioned, something that would just wear out over time, or even if not properly maintained, that would not be considered a safety defect subject to recall.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Do you have practical experience with this issue already? Is there a track record differentiation between these two categories of parts?
Admiral CROSS. One of the things we've tried to do as this issue has been discussed is take a look not only at boats, but at other industries. For example, the current statutes for automobile recalls talks in terms of 10 years. And we compare that with boats, we find that actually most people keep boats longer and operate boats longer than they would keep and operate automobiles. This issue hasn't been, certainly hasn't been decided. But as we have considered the issue, those are the kinds of facts that we've considered.
Mr. OBERSTAR. One of the problems that you testified earlier in the two carbon monoxide cases was that of reporting, that the incidents, the tragedies themselves, were not reported as equipment malfunctions, but as a drowning. Have you thought about ways in which you can improve the reporting upon which your safety program considerably depends?
Admiral CROSS. Yes, sir, we have. I think there are really two issues here with the reporting. First of all, the carbon monoxide issue in and of itself is a very insidious killer. So we suspect there may have been other fatalities at this point that were the result of carbon monoxide, but because of the way that carbon monoxide kills, and some general beliefs that were harbored in the past, for example, it was widely believed that as long as carbon monoxide was vented to the outside atmosphere then there was no danger. We now know that that's not correct.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With regard to the specific reporting, the reporting regimen is one that we have worked out with the individual States. We worked very closely through the boating law administrators to developed those processes. But I think there's no question that there are some serious flaws in the current reporting regimen, and we are going to work very hard to correct those flaws.
Mr. OBERSTAR. That is extremely important. I just harken back to my experience with FAA, and the reporting of near mid-airs many years ago. FAA administrator was given a set of factors that he, in good reliance upon his staff, reported to the public as a reduction of 50 percent in the number of near mid-airs. When my staff and I, Chairman of the Investigations and Oversight Committee at the time, looked at all the data from different sources, we found that the number was doubled.
Consulted with FAA, brought in Ames, the reporting agency, brought in other reporting services, got them all together in one room and said, let's harmonize the way data is collected, reported and evaluated, and have a single reporting system, so that then we know what the problems are and how the regulatory system can address them. That I think is extremely important, you're dealing with 50 States.
Admiral CROSS. Yes, sir, I couldn't agree more. That's exactly the road that we're intending to go down.
Mr. OBERSTAR. The National Boating Safety Advisory Committee has offered 32 resolutions and the Coast Guard has implemented 12 of them. Where do you stand with the balance of those recommendations?
Admiral CROSS. Sir, we take those resolutions from the Boating Safety Council, typically the information and the recommendations we get from the Council are good. And we would typically accept those and begin moving down the regulatory process to implement those recommendations.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The regulatory process is not a quick one. It can take upwards of two to three years to go through all the required steps, obtain the public comment that's required, obtain comments from manufacturers and others. I can submit for the record, if you would like, precisely where we are with each one of those recommendations. But I don't have that information available.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I would appreciate having that report submitted for the Committee record.
The Coast Guard has proposed to increase the threshold for marine casualties that must be reported from $1,000 damage to $2,000 damage. There are those who suggest that that may skew the statistics by making it appear that there are fewer boating accidents.
Admiral CROSS. Yes, sir, that's correct. Our reasons for doing that are at least two. First of all, if we go back many years to where we adopted the current number of $1,000, and you apply the inflation factor to it, then you find out that we're actually, in terms of real dollars, requiring a lesser accident to be reported. We found that our system has become overloaded with reports of accidents that really aren't particularly serious, and gets in the way of our focusing on accidents that are more serious.
It's really an effort on our part to try to sharpen our focus on those accidents that are the most dangerous to the public.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I won't pursue that further. I think that does require further consideration.
Finally, our Committee in TEA-21, the Transportation Equity Act, almost three years ago now, three years this summer, directed $5 million a year in funding for recreational boating safety. Do you publish a report on the boat safety education activities of the Coast Guard?
Admiral CROSS. Sir, we can certainly provide that information for you in great detail. But not all of that $5 million, for example, is used for education. Let me just give you one example.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We've taken $2 million of that and hired some contractors so we could re-implement a factory visit program that went out of existence a few years ago. So that allows us to send Coast Guard representatives to all the people who manufacturer boats in this country, so we can one, help educate them in terms of the requirements and design, potential design flaws, but it also lets us take a look at the work that they're doing so we can assure ourselves that they're building safer boats.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I didn't mean to imply that all that money was going for education.
Admiral CROSS. Yes, sir.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I know it goes for a broader range. But I think in the Committee's, for the Committee's benefit, it would be useful to have a report. We get such reports from the FAA on how they invest the various dollars we dedicated to their causes.
Admiral CROSS. Yes, sir, we'd be pleased to provide that information.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Ms. Brown, do you have any additional questions?
Ms. BROWN. No.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Mr. Simmons, do you have any additional questions?
Mr. SIMMONS. No, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Okay. Admiral, Commodore, thank you very much for your testimony. Admiral, we will be discussing how we proceed from here after the hearing. Thank you.
Admiral CROSS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. LOBIONDO. We will now introduce the third panel. We will have Michael Sciulla, Vice President, Boat Owners Association of the United States; Mary McConnell, representing the National Marine Manufacturers Association; James Muldoon, Chairman of the National Boating Safety Advisory Council; and Michael Wilson, President of the National Association of Safe Boating Law Administrators.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would ask our panelists to please try as best they can to stay to the five minute rule. Your full statement will be submitted into the record to be considered. With that, I'd like to welcome Mr. Sciulla. Please proceed.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL SCIULLA, VICE PRESIDENT, BOAT OWNERS OF THE UNITED STATES; MARY MCCONNELL, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL COUNSEL, GENMAR HOLDINGS, INC., AND CHAIRMAN, GOVERNMENT RELATIONS COMMITTEE, NATIONAL MARINE MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION; JAMES MULDOON, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL BOATING SAFETY ADVISORY COUNCIL; AND MICHAEL WILSON, ARKANSAS BOATING LAW ADMINISTRATOR, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE BOATING LAW ADMINISTRATORS
Mr. SCIULLA. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee. Mr. Oberstar, it's always a pleasure to see you again.
My name is Michael Sciulla. I am Vice President of Boat Owners Association of the United States. With over 530,000 members, we're the largest organization of recreational boat owners in the country, including, Mr. Chairman, 35,000 in the State of New Jersey, where one out of every six boat owners is a BOAT/U.S. member. We appreciate the opportunity to testify today and to share with you our thoughts on a number of issues we believe warrant your attention and action by Congress.
Mr. Chairman, the good news is that it appears that a record low 700 Americans lost their lives in boating accidents. If this number holds steady, the number of boating fatalities for the year 2000 will be well below the average 781 deaths per year over the last five year period. The bad news is that some 8,097 boaters lost their lives during the decade of the 1990s. All of these deaths were tragic, most were accidental, and many were preventable.
While we are not aware of any magic wand that could be waived and in one stroke substantially reduce the number of these fatalities, we do believe that a general absence of law enforcement at the Federal and State levels contributes to a disregard on the part of many boat owners for those laws designed to make boating safer. In short, the Coast Guard can regulate and the Congress can pass all the laws the experts say will make boating safer, but without sufficient manpower on the water to enforce existing boating laws, we do not expect such efforts to significantly lower the number of boating fatalities beyond that already accomplished.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A case in point is the Coast Guard proposal that would require all youngsters age 13 and younger to wear a life jacket when on the deck of a boat underway except in those States that already have a children's life jacket law. This proposal may have some appeal for those who want to appear to be doing something. But when you investigate the actual boating accident reports, it turns out that of the 31 children who drowned in a boating accident in 1999, 18 of the 31 were from States that already required children to wear a life jacket. Eight were already wearing a life jacket when they perished. Two died while the boat was at anchor and which wouldn't come under the Coast Guard proposal, and three were swimming.
Mr. Chairman, we are unconvinced that this proposed solution is either necessary or would be effective, especially without a concomitant increase in funding for law enforcement at the State level and a commitment by the Coast Guard to dedicate more manpower to its modest boating safety efforts on the navigable waters of the United States.
Rather than more Federal laws, we should look to States like Minnesota, where there has not been a drowning involving a child in the past four years, and there is no life jacket requirement for children. Minnesota, by the way, has nearly 800,000 registered boats, the fourth largest in the Nation. It's public education campaigns are considered cutting edge.
If the goal is to change the behavior of boaters, much more needs to be done to change their attitudes. A national education campaign could be launched, funded by the Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund. Some $35 million in new money will start to flow into the trust fund beginning in fiscal year 2002. Right now, that money will be simply used to grow more fish. We believe that this money should be used to save lives.
Another approach that could save many lives would be to require all canoeists and kayakers to wear a life jacket. A total of 105 canoers and kayakers drowned in 1998. Canoes and kayaks have the highest fatality rate of all types of boats, double that of personal watercraft and four times higher than open motorboats.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another area in which the Federal Government can have a positive impact on boating safety is in making sure that the public is protected from defective boats, especially those that present a substantial risk of personal injury. Mr. Chairman, on September 28th, 2000, the Coast Guard received a wakeup call. It was alerted that on Lake Powell, there have been seven deaths and over 100 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning requiring emergency care since 1994. A follow-up report released this past April documents 10 more cases of deaths and 19 more that have been overcome from carbon monoxide poisoning.
No one at this point knows if this is the whole iceberg or just the tip of the iceberg. What we do know is that carbon monoxide poisoning is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and it's a silent killer. Mr. Chairman, the Firestone tragedy haunts us. Hundreds, if not thousands, of unsuspecting boat owners may be at risk because of carbon monoxide poisoning or death. The Coast Guard's ability to act with dispatch is severely hampered because its product assurance branch is underfunded, undermanned and it lacks the authority to recall boats and equipment that pose a substantial risk of personal injury because its authority is limited to five years.
The vast majority of these houseboats were built over five years ago, I believe it's 81 percent. Some elements of the marine industry will argue that there is no need to extend their responsibility to correct the defect that poses substantial risk of personal injury beyond the five years now required by law. They will argue that they are good corporate citizens and that they take care of their customers.
The truth of the matter is that while most boat and engine builders are responsible, some are not. Just this past year, one of the marine industry's leaders, the Outboard Marine Corporation, of Waukegan, Illinois, one of the largest builders of boats and marine engines in the world, raced for bankruptcy protection at the same time that it kept secret from the public a serious defect involving at least 11,000 of its engines that could catch fire and explode.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, reputable manufacturers have nothing to fear from the Coast Guard, which has initiated just two safety defect recall campaigns over the course of the last 10 years. This is not a matter of the Government establishing a 10 year warranty. It's a matter of ensuring that a manufacturer has a duty to alert its customers and repair a product if it represents a substantial risk of personal injury to the public.
America's boat owners don't deserve to be treated as second class citizens. Right now, if you put $17,000 down on a brand new Chevy, you're protected for 10 years. Why should the owner of a 26 foot boat, who spent $51,000, or three times as much, only be protected for five years?
As many as 1 million Americans purchase a boat or engine each year. The sea can be much less forgiving than a highway, where you can pull off to the side of the road. America's boaters deserve no less protection under the law than that afforded motorists.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Mr. Sciulla.
Mr. MULDOON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to appear before you representing the National Boating Safety Advisory Council.
The Council was established in 1971 as part of the Boating Safety Act. That law required that the Coast Guard consult with the Council in prescribing Federal regulations concerning boats and boating safety issues.
The Council is comprised of 21 members, all appointed by the Secretary of Transportation. Seven are State officials, seven represent industry, and seven represent national recreational boating organizations, or the general public. These members combine their varied expertise to advise the Coast Guard on safety issues impacting 72 million American boaters.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We've been very proactive on a variety of boating safety issues, passing 13 resolutions last year and setting up a liaison with the Navigation Safety Advisory Council to ensure that our Council's deliberation and those of the commercial marine industry are conducted with more awareness of each others' needs.
Some of the issues the Council has addressed include unanimously adopting a resolution that resulted in the Coast Guard publishing the notice of proposed rulemaking to require children age 12 and under to wear an appropriate life jacket while aboard a vessel that is underway. I think the record would show that BOAT/U.S.'s delegate voted for that. We believe that wearing flotation while young creates a culture of safety throughout adulthood.
The Council has also been a prime mover in promoting and assuring that safe and reliable inflatable PFDs are available, since they seem to be more popular with the general public. Another resolution would require all persons to wear a personal flotation device when on a personal watercraft or while being towed behind a vessel for activities such as water skiing. We recommended third party certification of recreational vessel navigation lights, and supported the development of using light emitting diode technology possibly for navigation lights.
Recent deliberations have been aimed toward preventing a number of fatalities from increasingly popular forms of recreational boating like personal watercraft, canoes and kayaks. The Council has also taken up the issue of boating under the influence of alcohol. A final rule revising the Federal blood alcohol concentration standard for recreational vessel operators from .1 to .08 was published in January of this year.
The Council has deliberated extensively regarding the complex issue of propeller injury prevention. At our recent meeting in April, the Council passed a comprehensive resolution calling on the Coast Guard to institute rulemaking to protect and minimize the occurrence of propeller strike accidents through an array of potential options.
The Coast Guard has kept us apprised of their activities to address the danger associated with the presence of carbon monoxide, particularly household generators exhausting through the transom. The Council has expressed its concern about this issue to the Coast Guard and will continue to monitor actions taken and provide input as necessary.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Over the last two years, the Council has called for a more equitable distribution of the marine gasoline tax money from the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund to assure proper funding of State recreational boating safety programs. The States play a vital role in the national recreational boating safety program, and adequate funding is essential to their efforts to decrease boating fatalities and accidents.
Another activity which we undertake every five years is a comprehensive review of all boating safety regulations to make sure they're still needed or they're still appropriate. Our next review cycle will start next spring. The Council lauds the Coast Guard for keeping an open ear and an open mind to its suggestions, and believes that this cooperation has helped to significantly reduce the number of boating fatalities.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you. Mr. Wilson?
Mr. WILSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee.
It is indeed my pleasure to represent the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in discussing recreational boating safety before your Subcommittee. We strive to ensure that the intent of Congress to promote uniformity and reciprocity among the various States is given high priority. Our goal is to ensure safe and enjoyable boating for the more than $70 million Americans who take to our Nation's waters each year.
My remarks today will be on what we see as boating safety problems and our projection for improvement. The States are making great strides with uniformity of boating laws. However, we have concerns about multiple Federal agencies passing individual boating regulations on the same bodies of water. The result is confusing and lack of uniformity within a State and from State to State as boaters travel the same body of water. Consideration should be given to a multiple State Federal agency task force that would work to resolve these conflicts.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The number of unique forms of watercraft using our waterways is increasing, and there is a great variety of these craft. Some of these unique craft can become airborne after reaching planing speed, and some are capable of diving like a one person submarine. The great variety of new craft brings a host of challenges for boating administrators and enforcement officers. Educational, enforcement and zoning priorities must be expanded or shifted to address these newer craft that brings on a unique set of circumstances.
Some say that the waters are too crowded. Even within governmental circles, there are conflicting directions. While some are implementing use limits on the number or types of boats allowed on certain waterways, there are also substantial efforts to increase boating activities on these same waterways.
Given these differences in direction, are the waters too crowded? If they are, will additional marine enforcement officers, educational specialists and carrying capacities help to resolve these concerns? Only time, good research and rational leadership will help us to discover the true impacts of boating and carrying capacity of waterways.
Last fall, our association requested that the Coast Guard provide expedited funding for a comprehensive nationwide needs assessment for boating safety prior to reauthorization of TEA-21, so that Congress can be provided with a complete picture of what is needed to advance boating safety during the next 10 years. And the Coast Guard responded favorably to this request and that nationwide needs assessment is now getting underway.
We are making headway in our boating safety efforts. The number of annual fatalities in the United States has dropped from 1,754 deaths in 1973 to 742 deaths in 2000 despite there being more people on our waterways in a wider diversity of craft than ever before. Additionally, our association takes pride in the fact that the Coast Guard estimates that more than 27,000 lives have been saved since enactment of the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971.
In summary, we will continue to strive for more innovative uses of the Federal Boating Safety funds to better educate boaters and further reducing boating fatalities. However, we would be remiss if we did not emphasize that the Boating Safety Trust Funds are critical to the success of our State recreational boating safety programs. We have lost $12.6 million for each of fiscal years 1999, 2000 and 2001, because of a scoring problem if these trust funds are included in the Coast Guard appropriation. We continue to work to resolve this scoring issue.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Most important, we will be working with your Subcommittee when TEA-21 is reauthorized to ensure that the State boating safety program receives its fair share of these trust funds that are derived solely from the Federal tax boaters pay on gasoline used in motorboats. The National Boating Safety Advisory Council, our association, and many other national boating organizations, are recommending that these trust funds be split 50-50 between the boat safety account and the Sport Fish Restoration Account.
This concludes my statement. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Mr. Wilson. Ms. McConnell.
Ms. MCCONNELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Subcommittee. I'm Mary McConnell and I'm Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Genmar Holdings. I also serve as Chair of the National Marine Manufacturers Association Government Relations Committee and I'm here today testifying on the Association's behalf. We have also submitted testimony in a written form for the record.
We appreciate the opportunity to come before you today to address one of our greatest priorities, boating safety. As has been discussed by several folks here today, since the enactment of the Federal Safe Boating Act of 1971, fatalities arising from boating activities have dropped precipitously at the same time as the number of boats on our waterways has nearly doubled. Still, the number of fatalities needs to be pushed even lower.
The improvements over the past years have come in part from the efforts of the NMMA and its member companies and other safety minded groups who have dedicated millions of dollars to new product development, advertising, promotional and educational material to ensure that safety is paramount in boating. Our written testimony details the many specific activities that the NMMA has been engaged in to promote boating safety.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, we are aware of your interest in boating safety as it relates to carbon monoxide poisoning, and the recent deaths of two young boys overcome by carbon monoxide while swimming near a houseboat. As a result of that very, very tragic accident, the houseboat manufacturers have performed a voluntary recall of their vessels. The recall moved the generator exhaust from the transom area of the boat to the side of the boat, away from the swim platform. This field campaign was performed with the cooperation of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The houseboat manufacturers, like all manufacturers, want to do the right thing. No manufacturer wants anybody, particularly a child, injured while using its product.
We must all recognize, however, that carbon monoxide is an unavoidable product of internal combustion. We hope that recent technological advances will allow us to both reduce the exposure to CO and the overall amount of CO that is produced. Working with the Coast Guard and other groups, the houseboat industry is evaluating several new promising technologies and design features. But these new technologies and designs are not enough. We need to better educate our boat users and provide operating training on the risks of CO exposure.
We are also aware under consideration in the Senate's U.S. Coast Guard reauthorization bill is a proposal to change the recall notification period from the existing five years to ten years. And this proposal arise in large part from the tragic carbon monoxide poisoning of the two boys. We believe that the voluntary efforts outlined above will reduce the likelihood of carbon monoxide poisoning more effectively than extending the notification period. And this is true, because then a large number of houseboats targeted for the recall fell outside not only the current five year period, but would also fall outside the proposed ten year period.
Some houseboats recalled voluntarily by manufacturers were over 50 years old. Nevertheless, regardless of the age of the product, the houseboat manufacturers, like so many other manufacturers in our industry, voluntarily located and repaired the boats at no cost to the consumer. The voluntarily recall problem works well in the marine industry.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are convinced that the greatest gains in boating safety can come through a continued focus on boater awareness and education. The U.S. Coast Guard statistics bear this out. The statistics show that year after year, far too many boaters die by drowning. In 1999 alone, the U.S. Coast Guard estimates that the lives of 450 boaters could have been saved through the use of personal flotation devices. We need to direct our efforts to ensure consumers not only buy PFDs, but wear them.
The Coast Guard also reports that 90 percent of all boating fatalities in 1999 occurred on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety education course. We need to continue our efforts to ensure that every boat operator completes a safety course and has regular refresher training.
Finally, the Coast Guard reports that more than 25 percent of the boat fatalities involve alcohol consumption. We need to continue to direct our efforts at warning boaters on the dangers of mixing alcohol with boating, and we need to aggressively step up our enforcement efforts in that regard.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, both the NMMA and its individual members have been working diligently, both through advances in technology and boating education and awareness, to ensure that the boating public is participating in an affordable, safe, family oriented form of recreation, and we thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Ms. McConnell.
I'd like to start off by asking you several questions. You made a comment and statement, stating the cooperation of the manufacturers in working with the Coast Guard to keep carbon monoxide poisonings from ever happening again, and finding ways to do that. You talked about new technologies. I'm assuming by your statement that the manufacturers stand ready to go with recommendations working with the Coast Guard that we may be able to collectively identify as a subcommittee and as a full committee to avoid these tragedies in the future. Am I assuming correctly with that?
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MCCONNELL. That's correct, Mr. Chairman. If I may, I can just say a few words about what we're doing. Some things have been discussed already, but there are many other things that we're doing as well.
The wet-dry vertical exhaust system, which would divert the exhaust above the boat as opposed to down the side of the boat or even at the transom of the boat is being looked at. There's an afterburner converter that's being looked at. There's an electronic safety system that's being looked at, that would automatically turn off the generator and the engines when the gate was down or the swim ladder was down. Those are the technological advances we're looking at.
We're also looking at mandatory labeling and warnings that would be required as part of an industry certification. And we're also looking at requiring CO detectors not only in the accommodation area of the boats, which would mean the bedrooms and the salon area, but also out near the swim platform, where a lot of the recreational activities occur.
And we're also looking at better efforts at creating anti-disabling devices. Interestingly enough, in many of these cases, we're finding that they did have CO detectors on board, but the detectors had been disabled by consumers. So we need to have better devices in place, so that that disabling cannot occur.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you. I understand and want to commend the manufacturers that participated in the voluntary recall, and the effort to correct the problem. If my recollection is correct, however, there was something like six manufacturers out of all the manufacturers that participated with that program. Am I remembering wrong, or am I correct with that?
Ms. MCCONNELL. All of the manufacturers are participating in the program, and the recall is underway.
Mr. LOBIONDO. All the manufacturers?
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MCCONNELL. Yes.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Well, okay. I'm glad to hear that, because that was not the informationI had understood that the Coast Guard had sent out many more notices than had received responses fromokay, you've answered the question. We will double check that.
Also from the manufacturers' standpoint, are you taking additional steps for educational purposes to those that are going to be purchasing recreational boats, and not just with carbon monoxide, but with devastating propeller injuries and with flotation devices, all those things that go with boating safety? What's being done in this area?
Ms. MCCONNELL. In the carbon monoxide area, the NMMA has been very involved. We created a carbon monoxide awareness brochure for our boaters, which we've disseminated over 200,000 copies of this brochure, both at marinas and to our manufacturers. We included CO detectors in the list of mandatory equipment in our boat certification program, where you don't get certified by our industry as having a safe product unless you have a CO detector.
We sponsor CO education seminars at boat shows nationally, and we have received a U.S. Coast Guard grant to study the issue of CO in boating, which is one of the focuses is on better education to boaters regarding CO poisoning and fatality risks.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you. One last question and I'll move on to my colleagues before going to some others. We have read some accounts of some just devastating injuries due to propellers. There's some suggestion that there should be propeller guards. Would you please respond to your position on this?
Ms. MCCONNELL. We've been working over the last years with the Coast Guard and other groups on this issue to come up with the right solution. At this point in time, we don't believe that we have the right fix, the right technology in place. Because there's considerable debate about whether prop guards result in blunt trauma injury, which is even more devastating than propeller injury.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There is some new technology that we're looking at, another that we're looking at in the carbon monoxide area, but also in the prop guard area. It's an electronic safety system, which shuts off engines when the swim ladder is down in the back of the boat, which will prevent prop guard injuries when they are related to people who are swimming around the prop area in the back of that boat.
We think that technology has promise and several of our members are testing it right now.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Could you maybe try to narrow it down just a little bit more for us? Is this like a mission to Mars that is many, many years away, or is this something that is possible to happen in the near future that is under testing?
Ms. MCCONNELL. We believe that it's the near future versus the far future. These are actively being tested and the results are very promising.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you. Ms. Brown?
Ms. BROWN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think I'll just ask this question for all four panelists. It concerns the changing of the Coast Guard authority recalls from five to ten years. How do you feel about it, starting with you, Ms. McCOnnell? You seem like you had some concerns. Ordinarily, your car is 10 years. And you're responsible for the brake pads or the lights or whatever. But the period is 10 years. Why should it be any different for boating, particularly when boats cost a lot more than some cars?
Ms. MCCONNELL. Mr. Chairman, Representative Brown, I'd address that in several ways. Number one, the voluntary recall procedure is alive and well in the marine industry, as demonstrated by what has happened in the houseboat industry because of the tragic carbon monoxide poisoning.
The houseboat industry came to the plate and actually voluntarily recalled boats back to 50 years, that were 50 years old. The proposed change from five to ten years would not be even as great as what the industry is doing itself.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That's not unusual. S-2 yachts, which recently had a fuel tank problem, went back 15 years. My own company, Genmar, who recently acquired the assets from Outboard Marine Corporation, the boat related assets, found that after we purchased the company, that OMC should have reported a recall situation on several of the hulls related to the Stratus boats. We stepped to the plate, even though we had no legal obligation to do so, and have agreed to recall all those Stratus hulls.
Bombardier, who bought the engine related assets out of the OMC bankruptcy, has done the same thing with respect to the Evenrude and Johnson engines that it acquired.
Secondly, I would answer that no matter how long the recall period is, product liability exposure really drives people to do the right thing. The industry has cradle to grave exposure and liability for boats that it manufactures in the field. It makes business sense to avoid that liability, much less the human obligation to create safe boats. And another thing from a business perspective, this business is very fiercely competitive. A public relations disaster associated with getting yourself known as creating an unsafe product could destroy not only a product line but an entire company.
So with all that, the self-policing, the product liability risk, and the investment that businesses make in their product lines, all of those dictate that we do not need that fix. And when you have limited resources available, you really want to go after the things that you know are going to make an impact on boating safety. I still believe that efforts focused on boater education awareness, the use of personal flotation devices, and getting aggressive about enforcement of the mix of alcohol and boating is where we should direct our resources.
Ms. BROWN. Mr. Wilson, I would like to hear from the other panel members on this subject.
Mr. SCIULLA. Congresswoman, if I may.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. BROWN. Yes, please.
Mr. SCIULLA. I think it is important to note that not one houseboat was voluntarily recalled by the houseboat manufacturers until the Coast Guard stepped in. And it took the Coast Guard nearly five months from the first time they initially received the reports from Arizona that there deaths at Lake Powell for them to actually issue that recall notice. So a long time passed before anything was done, and then only after the Coast Guard asked.
I would also point out that I think a lot of people in the automotive industry were caught unawares with the Firestone tragedy. I know that Congress spent months looking into that whole issue and how the processes at NHTSA failed the American public. I think that the Coast Guard's Product Assurance operation really does need a microscopic look by the Coast Guard, because we have sent many cases to the Coast Guard over the years of boats that were in our opinion either defective or which represented a substantial risk of injury to the public. Quite frankly, the Coast Guard Product Assurance Branch is, as I said, underfunded and undermanned. We send the information over there and it goes into a black hole and it never comes out. I think there needs to be a change in direction before we suffer something like a Firestone tragedy.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Ms. Brown would like to hear from the other two panelist. If you could shorten up, it would be appreciated.
Mr. WILSON. I basically concur with Mr. Sciulla's comments on the recall period. I have just learned today that my colleagues who sit on BSAC, Boating Safety Advisory Council, voted against a ten year recall period at the most recent BSAC meeting. And without knowing their reasons why, I would like to reserve my comments until I do learn. But I could get those to you later for the record if you so desire.
Mr. LOBIONDO. We would look forward to your sending us that information.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The information follows:]
The National Boating Safety Advisory Committee (NBSAC) advises the Coast Guard on matters related to recreational boating safety. NBSAC members are drawn equally from State Boating Law Administrators, recreational boat and equipment manufacturers, national recreational boating organizations, and the general public. Members are appointed by the Secretary of Transportation. NBSAC recently defeated a proposal to recommend extending the recall period from five to ten years. The proposal was defeated because records do not support the need to extend the recall period. Moreover, manufacturers have demonstrated their willingness to correct defects by issuing voluntary recalls on boats and equipment beyond the five-year period.
Mr. MULDOON. BSAC considered the extended period for a very short period of time and voted not to support it, I think in part due to the fact that we did not have enough time to really look into the issue. It will more than likely be on our next agenda.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I was able to be here for the first panel, I had to leave to attend another meeting, and I have got to go to another meeting imminently. But I thank you for having scheduled this hearing. I just want to reiterate what you said regarding the Coast Guard response time. The number of recreational boats doubled, the number of recreational deaths diminished by half in the last 30 years. Now that does not address the Dixey family, their loss is irreplaceable, irreparable. That cannot be addressed. But I am hoping, Mr. Chairman, that something will be illuminated here today that will keep that from happening again. I think that is the beauty of hearings such as this.
I think, on balance, the Coast Guard does a good job. In fact, I just came from a Coast Guard Cutter a couple of hours ago, laying down near Fort McNair.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think you all may have touched on this, Mr. Chairman, regarding the Coast Guard's recommendation of swimmers who are 13 years and younger be required to wear a life jacket. I know that there is a mixed bag on this. Some embrace it warmly, some heartily reject it. I guess we can discuss that in more detail, Mr. Chairman, another day.
But I regret that I have not been able to stay here for the entire time. I am sure it has been a good hearing, and I thank you again for having scheduled it.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Well, Chairman Coble, you have set a standard for us. We appreciate any time that you can spend with us, and your sage advice is very much appreciated.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, sir.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Panelists, I appreciate that.
We will now move to our fourth panel. Ken and Bambi Dixey from Parker, Colorado; Dr. Robert L. Baron, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and consultant to the United States Department of Interior, Phoenix, Arizona; Dr. Lawrence J. Fine, Acting Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mr. and Mrs. Dixey, thank you very much for being here today. Congressmen McInnis and Hayworth have conveyed to me how willing you have been able to be to help avoid these tragedies in the future. We know this is a very difficult time, but we very much appreciate your testimony and welcome you here today.
Mrs. DIXEY. Thank you.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Please proceed.
STATEMENT OF KENNETH M. AND BAMBI LYNN DIXEY, PARKER, COLORADO; DR. ROBERT LLOYD BARON, M.D., MEDICAL DIRECTOR, GLEN CANYON NATIONAL RECREATIONAL AREA, LAKE POWELL, ARIZONA; AND DR. LAWRENCE J. FINE, M.D., ACTING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mrs. DIXEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of Congress, for listening to our statement today. I am Bambi Dixey and I am the mother that lost two boys in a tragic boating accident nine months ago due to carbon monoxide poisoning. I bring you my broken heart and I thank you for listening.
What does our Nation value most? It is the preservation and fullness of human life and the sacred bonds of the family. I feel I am called to help you realize what a heinous injustice it was that my children lost their lives so that regulations will be changed and boats made safe for families.
As a human being, I am responsible to care for other people and to preserve human life. I see the main purpose of these committee hearings to be the preservation of human life. If someone, anyone who knew of this carbon monoxide poisoning danger on houseboats had spoken up sooner, our children would be alive. If the manufacturers of these houseboats had made an effort to correct the design defects sooner, our children would be alive. That is why I am compelled to give this statement.
To understand our loss you must know our sons, Dillon Paul Dixey and Logan Michael Dixey. You must know what incredible human beings they were, how they loved God, their family, their friends, and their lives, what potential they had to make the world a better place.
Dillon had a huge contagious smile. He possessed motivation, perseverance, and brilliance. He was compassionate towards others and had a wide circle of friends. Dillon was fun to be around and often made up goofy names for friends and family. He even concocted his own zany vocabulary that he used all the time. He had a determination to practice and excel at whatever he set his mind to.
Young Logan had a great sense of humor and could tell a joke better than most adults. He was brilliant, confident, and full of integrity. He was courageous beyond his years and always stood up for his beliefs. Logan was energetic and enthusiastic about life. He filled our lives with affection. He could not sit next to you without sitting on your lap, and when he gave you a hug he never wanted to let go.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If you knew Dillon and Logan, there is no doubt in my mind that you would take action immediately to stop this from happening to other people. Their lives and the lives of others are worth saving at any cost.
I have no doubt these two little men would have changed the world for the better. We can live in a world without more boats, but we need people like my sons in this world. Instead, because of the dangerous, unchecked situation, their lives were snuffed out in seconds.
Just before the trip to Lake Powell, I told my husband we have everything, four beautiful children and each other. I longed for nothing. Now I am consumed with longing every day. Losing a child is the worse thing that can happen to a human being. Even being held prisoner of war inflicts less pain, less stress, less permanent damage. Titles of books dealing with this issue reflect the devastation: ''The worst loss,'' ''The Saddest Loss,'' ''Surviving the Death of a Child.'' Notice the word ''surviving.'' That is the best we can hope for on most days. These books are full of stories of children losing their lives, families being torn apart in agony. All of these books describe in depth the suffering of each family member, the debilitating stages of grief. But none of them can offer answers or solutions to the problems. There are no answers, no lessons learned, no silver lining to the cloud. Only a lifetime of heartache remains for families who lose a loved one.
As a family, our time together was a priority. We taught our children how to be responsible, caring people. My husband and I planned our lives around our children. Ken and I attended every function our children were involved in from school to sports to church. We prioritized providing a healthy, happy, safe environment for our kids. We were present for our children at all times, listening and loving. Our family was precious to us.
As parents, Ken and I stressed safety. We were safety-oriented in all that we did for the love of our family. We never drove the car out of the driveway without everyone buckling their seatbelt. We required our children to be at least 11 years old before they rode their bikes on the street, and even then they were never allowed to ride without a bike helmet. Before our children were allowed near water, they all had swimming lessons. Our children also had taken snorkeling lessons. Every year at the beginning of the trip to Lake Powell our family and the Teeney family gathered together before the trip began to have a safety meeting. As much as we tried to protect our children from harm, we were helpless against this hidden killer, a danger we did not expect to be there and knew nothing about.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In a Nation where manufacturers are required to design products which are safe for people to use, in a Nation where mass recalls are ordered to correct a safety issue, in a Nation where safety is stressed in so many arenas, how could these boats be available for rent or timeshare to families. Nine people were killed and over 100 people injured by carbon monoxide poisoning on Lake Powell alone in the last eight years. These were people and family members who were loved and are missed every day. My sons are not just numbers 8 and 9, they were more precious to our family than anything else in the world.
People are being killed and families devastated because of this houseboat design flaw. Why was every Lake Powell visitor not warned of such a danger? Why were these boats designed with what is now called a ''death zone'' allowed on the Lake? It took less than 30 seconds for my children to be overcome by poisonous gas, seize, and disappear under the water. How did a situation so potentially deadly go unchecked? We were on that Lake celebrating life and loving our family. Irreparable harm occurred to my husband, my surviving children, and myself. We were forced to witness a nightmarish tragedy and live with the permanent damage to our family. No one deserves such torture.
Vacationing families spending cherished time with one another deserve to be safe. They are entitled to the security of knowing they came to the Lake as a happy, healthy family and that proper safeguards are in place so they leave the Lake as a happy, healthy family.
I implore you to take a long look at the safety issues here. Ask yourself what safeguards need to be in place to protect the American family, to protect your family. Improve regulations for boating safety. Force the recall and repair of these boats with a deadly carbon monoxide trap. All of these poorly designed boats need to be recalled. Every boat owner is important. I urge you with all my heart to charge these boat manufacturers with adhering to the safest permanent design solution available. Precious lives are at stake.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you very much. Mr. Dixey, do you wish to comment?
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DIXEY. Yes.
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for allowing my wife and I to speak with you today. Recreating on a beautiful lake with our ski boat used to be my family's favorite pastime. Our timeshare houseboat on Lake Powell was the annual vacation that we looked forward to absolutely the most every year. Never did I dream that I would lose my two young sons on that lake. A conventional boating accident, or if they had slipped and hit their heads and fallen into the water, that would have been a lot easier to understand. But that is not what happened. My boys were put to sleep by a lethal gas while they were playing together and swimming around the swim deck on the back of our houseboat.
They were 8 and 11 years old. These two boys were not inexperienced around the water. As my wife has alluded to and told you, they were both slalom water skiers, they could both snorkel in the open ocean, they could go down to 20 feet and grab something off the bottom of the ocean. Logan, my eight year old, was the strongest and bravest little boy that I have ever known. He had completed the second grade and he held the pull-up record at his school for all three years that he was there, kindergarten, first, second grade. Even seventh and eighth graders could not keep up with him. This was a strong little tough kid. Dillon was my eleven year old. His favorite sport was baseball and he was the best pitcher on his team. He threw a shutout two weeks before he died. They were both straight A students, and they had the most awesome personalities and outlooks on life.
None of these wonderful attributes they both possessed could help them save their own lives. They and we did not know that there was an area in front of our swim deck where lethal doses of carbon monoxide could accumulate. It matters not how good a swimmer you are, how old you are, how smart you are, or how strong you are. If the concentration of carbon monoxide is high enough, three or four breaths will kill you just as quick.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My wife and I have been houseboating for 12 years. My family has owned ski boats since I was a young boy. Our family also sails and my wife and I are American Sailing Association bareboat sailors. We have been on the water a lot. We are also certainly aware that gasoline engines produce carbon monoxide. But even with all this knowledge and experience, we were not aware that there was an area near our swim deck where such lethal carbon monoxide concentrations could accumulate. I do not believe that the average boater has any idea that this situation exists.
If the houseboating industry does not come up with a permanent safe solution, many more lives will be lost. Congressman McInnis mentioned that night when he was testifying, and he is right, we did huddle around, tried to comfort each other. We laid in the bed with my two sons and my niece who was with us on that trip. But that was long after we searched for our two boys for hours. My wife combed the entire beach and looked around under the boat, everywhere. I was in the water diving, diving, and diving again with my snorkel and mask on that I always take to Lake Powell for things that might be on the bottom of the lake, and I never dreamed my two boys would be down there. I think every dad envisions himself as the protector of his children, and I know my boys expected me to save them. But I never had a chance. I think it was too late as soon as their heads went under water.
Since we lost Logan and Dillon, we have received half a dozen letters and calls from other families who have lost or almost lost loved ones from the same problem. My wife and I certainly do not want to be in their position in the future. We do not want to have to call another family and explain how we knew about these risks and did not do everything in our power to correct the situation.
Our houseboat was manufactured by Stardust Cruisers, as were many of the houseboats involved in these carbon monoxide poisonings. This company had been asked to change the exhaust system as early as 1997. This was at least 32 months before my sons died. And they have made no effort to correct the problem other than the side venting, which I understand is not the permanent fix. A houseboat can be pulled up against yours, you can be in a tight canyon, your ski boat can be there. I know of another incident where the lady actually got in between her ski boat and houseboat and the gases can accumulate there right on the water line. There have to be better solutions. So we are asking you to force the manufacturers to make the change.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, Mr. Chairman and subcommittee members.
Mr. LOBIONDO. We thank you very much again. I think that by your courageous testimony we can in a variety of ways help avoid these tragedies in the future. Your being here today is a very critical and important step in that process. Thank you for being here.
Mr. DIXEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mrs. DIXEY. Thank you.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Dr. Baron.
Dr. BARON. Good afternoon. I have been asked to testify today about my involvement with issues of boating safety. As compared to the previous testimony of the Coast Guard and other national groups that deal with a multitude of safety issues, my focus is very narrow and deals with carbon monoxide poisonings in a particular houseboat design.
My written testimony delineates my duties as medical director of the Park Rangers who care for the ill and injured at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, or Lake Powell. And while performing that job, I became witness to a number of very confusing episodes of unconsciousness and finally proof that these were, along with deaths, caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.
The written testimony does not include other facts. First, how difficult it was to believe that people could be poisoned by carbon monoxide in the open air. We humans are surrounded by gasoline engines every day, our cities are filled with autos and our sidewalks are filled with pedestrians and yet no one dies. So how could it possibly be that there in the wide open spaces of our national lakes or waterways people are dying of carbon monoxide poisoning? The situation seems unbelievable but we have proven it to be true.
Its cause is a particular boat design. This design has placed a gasoline engine's exhaust in immediate proximity to an area that was designed for people to occupy. By design, and because of the demand of customers, these boats were filled with all the creature comforts that can be found in American homes. By design and necessity, a generator needed to be placed on these boats to power these devices. Unfortunately, also by chosen design, the generator's exhaust was directed below the houseboat's patio and swim platform. By design, people are expected to use the patio and its associated amenities. Therefore, by design, people are dying.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To be fair, I must try and put these poisonings into some perspective. What we have here is a situation that is infrequent but nevertheless highly fatal. There are an awful lot of people who enjoy Lake Powell through the use of houseboats. As part of that experience, thousands of people spend tens and thousands of hours swimming at the rear of these boats. While putting these frequent set of events into perspective, we still though cannot forget the victims of these poisonings and their families. I am sure it does not matter to them how relatively seldom these poisonings can occur. In their case, the fatality rate is 100 percent. One innocent person interacting with one set of circumstances producing one catastrophic outcome. And in the Dixey's case, you can imagine the horror of having this magnified by two.
What we cannot forget is the factors causing these poisonings still exist. We must continue to do all we can as fast as we can to prevent one more death. If we choose to play this game long enough without changing the factors that cause these poisonings, we are assured of witnessing more innocent deaths. Please, if you can help us find ways to not have to play this game of chance any longer, please do it. I thank you.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Dr. Baron.
Dr. FINE. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I am Dr. Lawrence J. Fine, the Acting Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH. I am here today to discuss NIOSH's role in the investigation into the houseboat-related carbon monoxide poisonings at Lake Powell.
NIOSH is a public health research institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CDC, through NIOSH, is the Federal agency mandated to conduct research to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. I would like to spend the next few minutes summarizing NIOSH's role in the Lake Powell investigation, though it seems like such a modest effort in view of the tragic events described.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In August of 2000, the Department of Interior asked NIOSH for help in investigating the carbon monoxide poisonings of boaters on Lake Powell and in evaluating the exposures of National Park Service employees who operate and maintain the boats on the lake. Interior's request was initiated after the very tragic carbon monoxide deaths of the two brothers in August on the lake.
Department of Interior organized and led a multi-agency investigation. NIOSH's role was to address technical issues including environmental characterization. In addition to investigating the deaths of the two brothers, the multi-agency team also evaluated other similar boat related fatalities and nonfatal incidents among visitors and workers at the lake.
In September 2000, NIOSH and the Interior Department began reviewing fatality records at Lake Powell, and NIOSH began environmental sampling for carbon monoxide concentrations on and under houseboats. Results of the initial investigation were presented to the Park Service. The findings identified three dangerous situations: The environment in the open space under the swim platforms of some houseboats can be deadly, as demonstrated by the extremely high measurements of carbon monoxide and low measurements of oxygen during generator operation. The environment above and around the swim platform may also be hazardous, as demonstrated by the high measurements of carbon monoxide. Workers may be exposed to hazardous concentrations of carbon monoxide during boat maintenance activities, as demonstrated by the high short-term concentrations measured in one maintenance worker.
The multi-agency team reported in the December 15, 2000 issue of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) the results of their investigation. In their review of emergency room medical records from 1990 to 2001, they identified nine boat-related fatal carbon monoxide poisonings at Lake Powell since 1994, and approximately 100 nonfatal poisonings since 1990. Thirty of the nonfatal poisonings occurred under circumstances similar to the fatalities described earlier, while people were outdoors near or under the rear deck of a houseboat while the generator was operating.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As noted in the MMWR, our preliminary findings indicate that houseboats with a rear swim deck and a water level swim platform are imminent dangers to persons who enter the space beneath the deck or who spend time near the rear deck while the rear venting generator is operating.
To prevent future poisonings and deaths from carbon monoxide, the interagency team has recommended that houseboat manufacturers immediately devise engineering changes to new and existing boats to prevent the collection of carbon monoxide in air spaces around the rear deck. Carbon monoxide poisoning also occurred inside houseboats. Thirty-six of the nonfatal poisonings at Lake Powell occurred in boat cabins, and eight of these were in boats on which carbon monoxide detectors had been disabled because of repeated alarms. Federal, State, and local agencies and boat manufacturers should improve public awareness of the hazards of carbon monoxide on houseboats to ensure that boat occupants heed such alarms and act accordingly. All boats should be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors and boat occupants should never disable alarms.
Workers also may be exposed to very high carbon monoxide concentrations. The area beneath swim decks should be designated as a ''confined space'' and confined space entry procedures in accordance with guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration should be implemented before an employee enters the water to service engine components beneath the deck.
NIOSH will continue to evaluate occupational exposures among Park Service and concessionaire employees at the lake during the active boating season this year. We also will continue to work on other scientific fronts as may be requested by the lead agencies in this investigation, Department of Interior and the Coast Guard. We are supporting their efforts to determine the extent of the hazard and to evaluate control technologies to reduce exposures.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear today. I am happy to answer any questions you have.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LOBIONDO. Thank you, Dr. Fine.
Dr. Baron, are you aware of other areas of the country that have experienced similar type poisonings?
Dr. BARON. Yes. There are I believe 25 other instances that have been brought to our attention voluntarily by individuals through the public awareness primarily generated I think by the articles that were carried in the Arizona Republic. This information has gotten around the country, gone to other newspapers. And of those 25, there have now been 10 deaths of that 25 that have occurred on bodies of water other than Glen Canyon. And those we have been told about just on a voluntary basis without having to go searching for it. So, yes, this does occur all over the country and has for years, although it has not been out in the public. We searched for it previously and could not find it.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Dr. Fine, would you comment on your experience with Coast Guard cooperation or characterize the level of cooperation. Should it have been more? Did they respond in your view the right way? Tell me a little bit about how you feel about the Coast Guard's involvement with this.
Dr. FINE. Of course, our involvement with the Coast Guard started really with our investigation in August of 2000. I think they have been very cooperative with us, with the interagency team, as far as I know, in this investigation and responding very quickly to the information that was generated by the team.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Okay. So their cooperation was good. Do you feel that the Coast Guard (a), the boat manufacturers (b), are adequately addressing the problem?
Dr. FINE. NIOSH is a research organization and our role within this multi-agency team was really to address the science and technical issues surrounding carbon monoxide poisonings. We do not have enforcement or regulatory authority. Our role really is to provide the science necessary to support the recommendations of OSHA and other regulatory agencies. And in that context, as I said, as far as I can see, the Coast Guard has been very responsive. Really, our involvement in this really started in August of 2000, not previous to that time.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LOBIONDO. Okay. What I am really kind of trying to get at from your perspective is that while we are, I think, being much better at identifying the problem, at alerting the public and boaters about the safety and the severity of the issue, and we are pointed in the right direction, you really cannot comment further on how well along the road in that direction we are?
Dr. FINE. That is correct.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Okay. Ms. Brown?
Ms. BROWN. Thank you. First of all, I want to thank you all so much for coming and sharing with us today. You can rest assured that we are going to do all we can to make sure that this does not happen again, that we deal with the manufacturers, the educational portion, and just work through this process to make sure that it never happens again.
Mrs. DIXEY. Thank you.
Ms. BROWN. I come from Florida and boating is extremely popular there. In fact, on Mother's Day I spent the day on the deck looking at three houseboats and just wondering what it would be like to just spend some time on there. But one thing I do know is that we have got to make sure it is safe, safe for the families and the rest of the American people. So thank you again.
I have a question for Dr. Baron. Can you tell me what is the Park Service doing to ensure that the houseboats are safe this summer or as we go into this week starting Saturday to educate people?
Dr. BARON. I was in my normal monthly trip for tape and chart sessions at Lake Powell just last Thursday. And as we were going through the entry station I was handed the pamphlet, the newspaper that is handed out to every visitor. The entire front page is covered with the issue of carbon monoxide, with a picture of the rear end of a houseboat and labelled ''death zone'' underneath the back patio. There are also orange yellow signs at everyyou cannot walk down a dock without having to pass by one of these signs that announces the dangers of carbon monoxide. And where you have to go to rent a boat, if you are going to do that from the concessionaire, not only in the area where the concessionaire gives their talk to you and educates about the boat is there this same sign inside, but outside as well where you have to sign up for it.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On the other hand, I have a question too about this recall. When I first was asked about this and was asked when I would be satisfied with this process, I said I will be satisfied when there is a recall, when these boats are recalled. But now I find that that is just a term. I do not know how many boats have been retrofitted. I do not know how many boats it has been decided are supposed to be retrofitted. I do not know and have not been given any of the information, including here today, as to who is checking on that retrofitting process. At Lake Powell I believe it is going to be the responsibility of that recall. The name ''recall'' is there but I do not know what is really happening for this boating season starting officially soon.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Let me interrupt for just a moment, Ms. Brown. We did not consider this a final step or conclusion, but a beginning. A lot of questions have to be answered, including the ones you have just raised. We will be submitting them to the right people for answers to try to proceed. But, obviously, we do not have those answers now.
Ms. BROWN. I just want to add that when I am thinking and talking about the Park Service I am talking about the entire Park Service, because people in Florida, everywhere will be going on these boats. What are we doing to ensure that this does not happen in other places. So I guess we have a broader issue really to educate and also beef up the information so families can protect themselves.
Dr. BARON. And, unfortunately, I cannot speak for the Park Service, but just for my involvement with Glen Canyon and what has gone on there.
Ms. BROWN. Well, as the Chairman said, this is the beginning of the process. I want to thank the Chairman again for calling this hearing. We will work together to help resolve this issue.
Mr. LOBIONDO. Ms. Brown, that is a good point. I believe that we can be proactive in contacting the Park Service to ensure that it is not just isolated areas where they are putting out an alert but that it is appropriate with the potential tragedy at hand.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Simmons, do you have questions for this panel?
Mr. SIMMONS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have been out of the chamber and I apologize to the witnesses. I have read the testimony and it is compelling testimony on this issue. I express my sympathies to the family.
Mrs. DIXEY. Thank you.
Mr. SIMMONS. I remember from a tragedy in my own family reading a book that was titled ''When Bad Things Happen to Good People.'' You may have read it as well.
Mrs. DIXEY. We have read that.
Mr. DIXEY. We have read quite a few of those.
Mr. SIMMONS. I bet you have. So I extend my personal sympathies to you. One of the purposes of public policy is to ensure that customers are protected when they buy something, the families are protected. Water safety has always been very important to me. I live on the shoreline, I have been around boats all my life, I have seen my share of accidents. So I express my sympathies to you and my commitment that I will work with the Chairman and other members of this subcommittee in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that this sort of thing does not happen again.
Mr. DIXEY. Thank you.
Mr. SIMMONS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. LOBIONDO. I want to again thank all of our panelists today. I thank Congressmen Hayworth and McInnis for their advocacy. Mr. and Mrs. Dixey, again a special thank you for your courage. We all pray that you find peace and strength.
Mr. DIXEY. Thank you very much.
Mrs. DIXEY. Thank you.
Mr. LOBIONDO. This hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:15 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, to reconvene at the call of the Chair.]
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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Self Protection Efforts
Question. Admiral, as we approach National Safe Boating Week, please give the Subcommittee some examples of how recreational boaters can best protect themselves while on the water?
Answer. Boating is a recreational experience that over 72 million people look forward to every year for fishing, sailing, cruising or just relaxing. Prudent seamanship is the key to ensuring a pleasant outing doesn't end in tragedy.
Before ever leaving the dock, it is important that boaters know and comply with equipment carriage requirements. Since neither the States nor the Coast Guard have the resources to ensure that all vessels are in compliance with proper carriage requirements, boaters must take this responsibility upon themselves. Equipment includes personal flotation devices (commonly referred to as PFDs or life jackets) for all persons on board, fire extinguishers and visual distress signals, as applicable.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary, in partnership with the U.S. Power Squadrons and participating States, conduct the Vessel Safety Check (VSC) program to serve as a ''prevention through education, outreach, and volunteer compliance'' activity. The VSC requirements parallel the Federal and individual State regulations regarding equipment and safety conditions of the vessel.
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Awareness of the dangers of mixing alcohol and/or drugs with boating also is important for both operators and passengers. A boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.10 is ten times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than a boater with zero blood alcohol concentration. Alcohol and/or drug-impaired passengers put themselves and others at risk.
Taking boating education courses, wearing PFDs, keeping a proper lookout, obeying navigation rules, and following other boating safety procedures are important and serve to greatly reduce the number and severity of boating accidents. However, sometimes they are not enough.
In the event of an emergency, the boater must be prepared to make four critical contributions to facilitate their rescue. The boater must be prepared to quickly alert responders to the distress, accurately indicate distress position, actively signal to enhance detection, and take action to survive until rescue in the particular operating environment.
Recreational Boating Deaths Caused by Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Question. How many people have died during the past ten years of carbon monoxide poisoning on recreational vessels?
Answer. The Coast Guard boating accident database contains the following data for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning deaths over the past ten years:
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCI21As a result of the investigation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) surrounding the carbon monoxide deaths at Lake Powell, it has been determined that the Coast Guard data shown above does not include all drowning deaths caused by carbon monoxide. Some drowning deaths were reported as swimming accidents and not boating accidents caused by carbon monoxide. For example, only two of the nine deaths that occurred at Lake Powell are included in the Coast Guard database. To address this issue, the Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators are working to create an awareness on the part of boating accident investigators of the potential involvement of carbon monoxide in drownings that occur while persons are in the water in close proximity to a boat.
Houseboat Recalls: Manufacturers Cooperation
Question. Over the past six years, nine deaths which occurred on houseboats on Lake Powell have been attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning. As a result of these deaths, I understand that the Coast Guard has issued mandatory recall notices to certain companies which manufacture houseboats. Have the houseboat manufacturers cooperated with the Coast Guard's recall?
Answer. The Coast Guard notified all known houseboat manufacturers that it had determined a specific houseboat design created a substantial risk of injury to the public. Most of the boats that have the design were manufactured more than five years ago, which places them outside of our authority to recall. The Coast Guard did get agreement from the manufacturers that they would voluntarily recall all boats with this identified design, whether or not they were outside of the mandatory recall window.
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The design defect involved entrapment of generator exhaust in a cavity created by the overhanging swim platform. Six manufacturers identified themselves as either building or having built vessels of this design. These six manufacturers cooperated fully and voluntarily and commenced recalls of all of the defective vessels no matter what their age, even though they were only required to notify owners of boats five or less years old. The recalls are officially registered with the Coast Guard and will continue to be monitored by the Coast Guard until they are satisfactorily completed.
Houseboat Recalls: Identification of Corrective Action
Question. Over the past six years, nine deaths which occurred on houseboats on Lake Powell have been attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning. As a result of these deaths, I understand that the Coast Guard has issued mandatory recall notices to certain companies which manufacture houseboats. Has the Coast Guard and the manufacturers determined how to correct the design defect of these vessels?
Answer. The recalls that are being conducted are being done voluntarily by houseboat manufacturers.
The problem identified as having caused the carbon monoxide deaths at Lake Powell was a specific design on the rear of the houseboat where the swim platform created a cavity that entrapped generator exhaust. The manufacturers that were building or had built vessels with this design deterrifined that the solution to this problem was to reroute the generator exhaust out of the side of the boat rather than through the transom into the cavity. The Coast Guard concurred with this solution.
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NBSAC Boat Propeller Proposal
Question. What is the Coast Guard's position on the recent proposal by the National Boating Safety Advisory Council regarding boat propeller strike accidents?
Answer. At its April 2001 meeting, the National Boating Safety Advisory Council (NBSAC) recomended that the Coast Guard propose different regulations to address propeller strike accidents, some affecting owners of several categories of recreational vessels and others affecting manufacturers of planning and non-planning recreational vessels. The recommendation presents an array of options to meet requirements. The Coast Guard is currently considering the individual parts of the NBSAC resolution and plans to address them in independent regulatory projects.
Balancing Boating Safety With Core CG Missions
Question. How is the core mission of boating safety balanced with other Coast Guard operational needs?
Answer: Maritime safety and search and rescue is a high priority for the Coast Guard. Field commanders constantly evaluate and balance competing operational needs, reallocating resources as appropriate. The Coast Guard boards recreational boats to enforce all applicable federal laws and regulations, including recreational boating safety laws and regulations. Properly educated recreational boaters and properly equipped recreational boats provide a positive impact to maritime safety and reduce the need for Coast Guard resources in other mission areas such as search and rescue and law enforcement.
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The enactment of the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 redefined the Coast Guard's role in the National Recreational Boating Safety (RBS) program as a critical coordinator. Besides its own resources, the Coast Guard relies heavily on the cooperative efforts, talents, and resources of state and local governments, volunteers from various organizations, partnerships with boating industry and members of the private sector, as well as the individual boater, to accomplish its RBS mission.
NDRSMP: Delay of Implementation Efforts
Question. Admiral, I understand that the Coast Guard's National Distress and Response System, which provides two-way voice communications between the Coast Guard and the maritime public, is technologically obsolete. Why is it taking so long to modernize this vital lifesaving system?
Answer. Originally established in 1970, the current National Distress System (NDS) operated by the Coast Guard has become technologically obsolete and increasingly expensive to maintain. In the early 1990s, the Coast Guard dedicated budgetary resources to renovating the system and providing around-the-clock availability (i.e. back-up generators) in select locations such as Alaska. Through these efforts, however, it quickly became apparent that the Coast Guard needed to pursue a whole re-capitalization of NDS, replacing it with an integrated system that could take full advantage of current technology to improve coverage, reliability, and capability.
The National Distress and Response System Modernization Project (NDRSMP) will replace the Coast Guard's current piecemeal, 1970's short-range communications system with integrated, 21st century technology. This new system will help the Coast Guard to more effectively and efficiently perform search and rescue, as well as perform our other missions. NDRSMP will be an integrated system that addresses position reporting, asset tracking, Digital Selective Calling (DSC) and interoperability, as well as other vital command, control and communications functions required by our search and rescue mission. Instead of providing multiple, nonstandard, short-term fixes, NDRSMP will meet all of these search and rescue requirements in a totally integrated system in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) guidelines and procedures.
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NDRSMP has been funded on budget since 1997. Since initial funding was received and the project initiated, NDSRMP has proceeded through the Coast Guard acquisition process of defining the project requirements and mission needs, completing concept exploration, and is now in the Design, Demonstration and Validation Phase. In order to reduce both technical and cost risk with the project, NDRSMP changed acquisition strategies to a two-phased approach in August of 1999. The Phase I Request for Proposals (RFP) was posted on December 2, 1999, and received an adequate number of proposals to ensure competition.
Following a full and open competition, Phase I contracts were awarded on August 2, 2000, to three System Integration Contractors: Lockheed Martin, Motorola Inc., and Science Applications International Corporation. Viable Phase I contractors will compete in a limited competition for one Phase II contract, scheduled to be awarded by September 2002. This current two-phase NDSRMP acquisition strategy conforms with the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy requirements relating to full funding, useable segments, and well-defined cost estimates.
NDRSMP: Implementation of System
Question. Admiral, I understand that the Coast Guard's National Distress and Response System, which provides two-way voice communications between the Coast Guard and the maritime public, is technologically obsolete. When will the new communications system be operational?
Answer. The Coast Guard is on schedule with the current approved Acquisition Project Baseline (APB) for the National Distress and Response System Modernization Project (NDRSMP). Initial Operational Capability of two adjacent Coast Guard Groups will occur in fiscal year 2003. If we receive the necessary funding, we expect to reach Full Operational Capability throughout the U.S. in fiscal year 2006.
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NDRSMP: Acceleration of System Implementation
Question. Admiral, I understand that the Coast Guard's National Distress and Response System, which provides two-way voice communications between the Coast Guard and the maritime public, is technologically obsolete. What can be done to accelerate the National Response System Modernization Project?
Answer. Currently the National Distress and Response System Modernization Project (NDRSMP) is in the Design, Demonstration and Validation Phase. This includes the critical functions of Position Localization, Digital Selective Calling (DCS), and Coast Guard Asset Tracking. This phase cannot be significantly accelerated without an adverse impact to system quality, functionality, and cost.
We are exploring alternatives to accelerating Phase II, Full Scale Development, Production, and Deployment, which is planned to begin February 2002. Innovative changes to the project rollout schedule are being considered that may reduce the time lag associated with tower sitting and mobilization, such as completing advance preparatory work and concurrent deployment at multiple locations.
Efforts to Reduce ''Boating Under the Influence''
Question. It is my understanding, that 27 percent of fatal boating accidents involve alcohol. What steps is the Coast Guard taking to reduce the number of incidents attributable to ''boating under the influence''?
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Answer. Boating accident statistics indicate that alcohol was involved in 26 percent of boating fatalities in 1999, the most recent annual data available. Both the Coast Guard and the States are actively addressing this issue in several ways:
Effective May 11, 2001, the Federal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) standard on waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States was lowered from .10 to .08. Many States also have lowered or have proposed lowering their BAC to .08.
The National Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Campaign, launched in 1998, is a partnering effort of the Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). The theme for the BUI Campaign is ''It's a Different World on the Water. Boat Safe and Sober.'' Market tests have validated the effectiveness of the campaign and a new series of BUI public service announcements. A turnkey campaign kit will be disseminated to the States and other national stakeholders this September. In addition, all NASBLA-approved boater education courses include a section on the dangers of alcohol and dangerous drug use.
A new initiative by the Coast Guard's Area Commanders, Operation Boat Smart, will extend the recreational boating safety partnerships that have been so successful at the national level down to the local operational level, with BUI being a key target area. The Coast Guard's Maritime Law Enforcement School Boarding Officer Course emphasizes cooperation with State and local law enforcement personnel and prosecutors to remove barriers to successful prosecution of offenders at those levels with Coast Guard boarding officer support.
In addition, the Recreational Boating Safety Specialist in the Eighth Coast Guard District (New Orleans) is working with the NASBLA Law Enforcement Committee to develop a comprehensive BUI training program to standardize State law enforcement officer training and validate an afloat battery of field sobriety tests for national standardization similar to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration program for driving while intoxicated.
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State Recreational Boating Safety Efforts
Question. How are the States involved with recreational boating safety? What additional steps could individual States take to improve recreational boating safety?
Answer. The States are the primary delivery vehicles for the RBS program, with support from the Coast Guard coming primarily through the State Grant Program. This is particularly true on inland waters where the Coast Guard has little or no presence, or on sole State waters where the Coast Guard has no jurisdiction. These State services are critical in light of the fact that approximately 80 percent of boating fatalities occur on inland waters.
The States' primary means of addressing boating safety involve boater education, including outreach and awareness programs, and maintaining a law enforcement as well as a search and rescue capability. Increased education initiatives (e.g., mandatory boater education programs) and additional enforcement presence on the waters are areas that could provide significant results in improving boating safety in the future.
EducationCoast Guard statistics show that 9 out of 10 operators in fatal accidents had no boating safety education. More States are pursuing mandatory education for all boaters, not just targeted groups such as personal watercraft (PWC) operators. Additional specialized education programs are being developed to target high-risk groups such as anglers and hunters32 percent of fatalities report fishing as an activity at the time of the accident. To promote uniformity and reciprocity, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) developed and adopted National Boating Safety Education Standards.
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EnforcementThe States' largest RBS Program expenditures are for costs of personnel and equipment for law enforcement and search and rescue. There is a need to increase officer presence in areas where there currently is inadequate or no RBS enforcement. One State recently gave an example of having only 1 officer for 33 lakes and 96 miles of river. Many State surveys of the boating public reflect their strong support for an increased enforcement presence on the waters. Also, there is a need to improve accident investigation training to help better identify the causes of accidents.
State Personal Flotation Device (PFD) Requirement for Children
Question. The Coast Guard recently published a proposed rule to require all children under 13 to wear personnel flotation devices. How many states presently have PFD requirements for children?
Answer. Currently, 37 States have a requirement for children of varying ages to wear personal flotation devices (PFDs) on recreational vessels within their State.
Coast Guard Personal Flotation Device (PFD) Requirement for Children
Question. The Coast Guard recently published a proposed rule to require all children under 13 to wear personal flotation devices. Why did the Coast Guard decide to preempt the decisions of states in this matter?
Answer. The Coast Guard has filed a notice of proposed rulemaking that would not preempt states' decisions. The proposed rule adopts any state age requirement within that state as the federal age requirement. If there is no state requirement, then the proposed rule would apply. The Coast Guard hopes to encourage a national age requirement for children wearing PFDs to reduce public confusion over various state requirements. The Coast Guard's goal is to reduce the number of children who drown because they were not wearing PFDs, without preempting the states' efforts.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCRecreational Boaters: Boating Safety Course Participation
Question. Commodore, what percentage of recreational boaters have taken a boating safety course?
Answer. Of the estimated 72 million boaters, about one percent take a boating safety class each year. An average of 200,000 people take boating safety courses offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary each year. In the most recent year that statistics were available (1999), over 340,000 people took courses offered by the States. Other organizations, such as the United States Power Squadrons, reach over 100,000 people each year.
Auxiliary Efforts to Increase Boating Safety Course Participation
Question. What is the Auxiliary doing to increase participation in these important safety courses?
Answer: The Coast Guard Auxiliary is aggressively revising its courses in response to the changing demographics of the boating population and changes in boating technology. Since many more families are now two-income families with less leisure time, the Auxiliary has added shorter courses. It is also orienting more courses toward children and young adults. The Auxiliary now offers courses in personal watercraft safety and the use of the global positioning system, two newly emerging technologies. In partnership with the United States Power Squadrons, the Auxiliary is about to release its newest course, America's Boating Course. This course will include an interactive compact disc (CD) and will be available at marine retailers. Both of these features are ''firsts'' in our long-standing boating safety education programs.
Auxiliary's Assistance to the Coast Guard
Question. Besides conducting boating and water safety courses, how else does the Auxiliary assist the Coast Guard?
Answer. The Coast Guard Auxiliary also conducts voluntary safety checks of recreational boats to ensure they carry required safety equipment; conducts surface and air patrols of our waters; monitors radio frequencies for emergency calls; responds to calls for assistance using boats owned by Auxiliary members; and augments Coast Guard active duty and reserve personnel at various Coast Guard units. Volunteer members of the Auxiliary contribute close to 900,000 hours of their time each year in direct support of Coast Guard missions to keep our waterways safe and clean. They directly assist over 10,000 boaters in trouble each year, saving an average of 300 to 400 lives annually. The Auxiliary is a key component of the Coast Guard's many links to the agency's constituency of 72 million recreational boaters.
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Recreational Boater: Individual Responsibility
Question. What do you think Individual boaters can do to reduce recreational boating accidents?
Answer. Individual boaters can reduce recreational boating accidents through a combination of preparation, education, and common sense.
Before ever leaving the dock, it is important that boaters know and comply with equipment carriage requirements and familiarize themselves with their vessel's equipment and capabilities. Since neither the States nor the Coast Guard have the resources to ensure that all vessels are in compliance with proper carriage requirements, boaters must take this responsibility upon themselves.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary, in partnership with the U.S. Power Squadrons and participating States, conduct the Vessel Safety Check (VSC) program to serve as a ''prevention through education, outreach, and volunteer compliance'' activity. The VSC requirements parallel the Federal and individual State regulations regarding equipment and safety conditions of the vessel. Vessel Safety Checks not only ensure that boats are properly equipped, but also offer a unique opportunity for ''one-on-one'' boater education.
Participating in a boating safety course is another important step individuals should take. An estimated 9 out of every 10 boating fatalities occur on boats where the operator had not completed a boater education course. Less than half of the recreational boaters on U.S. waterways have attended a recreational boating safety course within the past ten years. Additionally, operators must familiarize themselves with and obey all navigation rules.
Awareness of the dangers of mixing alcohol and/or drugs with boating also is important for both operators and passengers. A boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.10 is ten times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than a boater with zero blood alcohol concentration. Alcohol and/or drug-impaired passengers put themselves and others at risk.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCQUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY THE MINORITY
Increase in Recall Authority
Question. Some boat manufacturers have concerns about increasing the Coast Guard's recall authority from 5 years to 10 years. How would you differentiate boat safety defects subject to a recall from parts that may simply wear out or boat parts that are subject to a manufacturers warranty?
Answer. The Coast Guard has been differentiating between safety defects and warranty defects or wear and tear problems since passage of the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, and has attempted to be consistent and fair in these decisions. The Coast Guard's defect determinations are based on three factors: (1) The hazard occurs virtually without warningnormal wear and tear does not normally create the basis for a defect; (2) The defect occurs with some frequencyone isolated occurrence usually does not create the basis for finding a defect; and, (3) The defect presents the risk of death or serious injuryit must present a substantial risk of injury to the public. For example, a defective refrigerator light would not likely constitute a substantial risk defect, but a defective navigation light would.
The Coast Guard normally consults with the manufacturer during the determination process and considers input from the manufacturer in making the determination. Additionally, the Coast Guard must provide the manufacturer with a synopsis of the information on which the decision is based and the manufacturer may appeal the decision.
Number of Houseboats With Carbon Monoxide Exhaust Problems
Question. How many houseboats are there in the United States that have a design problem with the carbon monoxide exhaust? How many of these houseboats are more than 5 years old and not legally subject to the Coast Guard recall?
Answer. Houseboat manufacturers have identified 2,105 vessels with the design defect noted in the Coast Guard recall. Although 1,650 of these houseboats are greater than five years old, and not subject to the recall, manufacturers have voluntarily commenced recalls on all the vessels with the design defect, regardless of age.
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Modification Schedule for Houseboat Recall
Question. What is the schedule for modifications to be completed on houseboats that are subject to the current recall?
Answer. The manufacturer is required by regulation to notify the first owner (or other owner if known) of the defect and the need to correct the defect within 30 days of notification by the Coast Guard. It is the responsibility of the owner to contact the manufacturer to have the defect corrected.
There are not any regulations that require a time limit for the completion of a recall. Among many other considerations, completion of a recall is dependent on the action of the individual vessel owners and is not within the control of the manufacturer.
Recall Applicability to Multiple Owners
Question. Does a recall only apply to a boat owned by the first owner of the boat? If so, how do subsequent owners find out about safety defects on a boat that they may own?
Answer. A recall applies to all boats that contain the defect to be corrected; however, the manufacturer is required by regulation to only notify the first owner (or subsequent owner if known) of the defect and the need to correct it. Recreational boat manufacturers are not normally notified of a change of ownership unless the boat is still within the warranty period, which, in most cases, is five years. Manufacturers attempt to notify subsequent owners through announcements posted to their website, through newsletters if they publish one, through local media, and through their dealers.
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To assist in providing recall notification to subsequent owners, the Coast Guard annually publishes the list of open recall campaigns in the Boating Safety Circular that is distributed to over 30,000 marine-related addressees, including marinas, marine dealers, marine repair facilities, and marine publications. The Coast Guard also has the recall campaign database available on its Boating Safety Website (http://www.uscgboating.org), which provides public access to all safety recall campaigns. In addition, BOATUS regularly publishes current recall campaigns in their magazine.
Identification of Owners to Provide Defect Notifications
Question. Does a Hull Identification Number (HIN) provide sufficient information to determine whether a vessel is subject to a safety recall? If so, will the Vessel Identification System (VIDS) aid in identifying vessels that have safety defects even though they may have been multiple owners of the vessel? Will VIDS allow the Coast Guard or a State to notify an owner of a safety defect?
Answer. The Hull Identification Number (HIN) provides a unique identifier for each recreational boat and is sufficient for the purpose of identifying a boat subject to a recall. When fully operational, the Vessel Identification System could assist in identifying current owners of vessels subject to a recall. In turn, the Coast Guard could provide the names and addresses of such owners to the manufacturer so that the manufacturer could notify them of the recall.
Full Operational Capability of Vessel Identification System
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Question. It has been approximately 13 years since the Vessel Identification System was authorized. When will it be fully operational?
Answer. A prototype Vessel Identification System (VIS) was delivered by the original contractor in 1999 and tested using data from one state. The initial prototype failed to meet the minimum necessary operational requirements. Subsequently, the contract was terminated. A new contractor was identified and is currently developing a second VIS prototype. Initial testing of this prototype will be complete prior to the end of calendar year 2001.
Pending the success of the second prototype, a demonstration will be presented to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). In addition to the technical efforts associated with the VIS implementation, the Coast Guard is working to gain wider acceptance from states themselves. Participation in VIS is voluntary and many states are waiting to see a working, useful system before dedicating their resources to VIS.
Safety Recall Modification Requirements for Boats Older Than Five Years
Question. Are owners of boats that are rented out or time-shared required to make safety modifications even if the boat is more than 5 years old and therefore not subject to a recall?
Answer. No, Coast Guard regulations governing recalls apply only to manufacturers.
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Question. How will a person that either rents or time-shares a houseboat know whether modifications have been made to the houseboat that they are on?
Answer. Landlord/tenant obligations are a matter of State laws and the Coast Guard cannot address whether any States have applied landlord/tenant provisions to the rental or time-sharing of houseboats. The Coast Guard has, however, taken action to inform the general boating public, and specifically houseboat owners, of the current houseboat recall.
The Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the U.S. Power Squadrons have all increased their efforts to educate boaters on the hazards of carbon monoxide, giving new emphasis to the hazards of generator exhaust and the recalled houseboat design. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons will address this hazard in their boating safety education courses and in their Vessel Safety Check program. Furthermore, the Auxiliary has set a goal for its dock-walking program and patrols on the water to personally contact houseboat owners within their area of responsibility concerning this carbon monoxide hazard and the ongoing recall.
Non-Houseboat Carbon Monoxide Exhaust Problems
Question. Are there other types of recreational vessels that potentially have the same type of a problem with the discharge of carbon monoxide from the vessel's engine? If so, what is the Coast Guard doing to identify these types of vessels and have modifications made to them?
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Answer. Although carbon monoxide hazards exist on all boats that have gasoline-powered engines, the Coast Guard is not aware of any other boats that have the defective design configuration that has created a significant risk of injury to the public.
The Coast Guard is continuing its investigation with the assistance of manufacturers and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health into other common generator exhaust configurations to determine if any other configurations may pose a significant risk of injury.
The Coast Guard is also continuing its efforts to focus boater attention on the hazards of carbon monoxide on all boats that have gasoline-powered engines for electrical generation or propulsion. In addition, the Coast Guard is actively engaged in the review of promising technologies to further reduce carbon monoxide hazards on recreational boats.
Recall Modification Deadlines
Question. How does the Coast Guard determine how long to give a manufacturer to complete all modifications on vessels subject to a recall?
Answer. Under its regulations governing recalls, the Coast Guard has not established a time limit for the completion of recalls. Among many other considerations, completion of the recall is dependent on the action of individual boat owners and is not within the control of the manufacturer. Other factors that determine the time required to complete a recall are the number of boats, the size of the boats, the availability of repair parts, the availability of repair facilities, the age of the boats, the location of the boats (local area or nationwide), and the complexity of the modification.
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VHF Gap Along U.S. and Gulf of Mexico
Question. How many gaps are there in the Coast Guard's current VHF coverage of the U.S. Coast along the Gulf of Mexico? Is it technically feasible for the Coast Guard to fill in these gaps with radio coverage from a commercial operator with VHF towers in the Gulf this summer? If so, how much would that cost?
Answer. An informal 1995 Coast Guard study identified 18 communications gaps in VHF coverage of the Coast Guard along the Gulf of Mexico. In the past 6 years, efforts have been made to mitigate these gaps by relocating high-level antenna sites and establishing additional low-level sites. This has closed and/or reduced the size of some gaps, but may have opened others.
Gaining complete coverage, although technically feasible, could be quite costly as new tower installations are very expensive.
In the interim, to assist in filling these gaps, Public Coast Stations operating in the 156162 MHz frequency range are required by Federal regulations to provide a safety watch on VHF channel 16. Public Coast Stations are exempted from providing a safety watch when ''Federal, State, or Local Government stations'' cover 95 percent of the coverage area. However, Federal regulations also allow the Coast Guard to ''require any coast station to maintain the watch temporarily or permanently'' and ''require any coast station to remain capable of either immediately resuming the watch or providing the Coast Guard direct dial-up access to the necessary 156.8 MHz transceiver at no charge, so that the Coast Guard can maintain the watch.''
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It is technically feasible for the Coast Guard to partially fill some coverage gaps using Public Coast Stations with VHF towers along the Gulf of Mexico at no cost to the Coast Guard. However, the National Distress and Response System Modernization Project (NDRSMP) is designed to provide continuous coverage along the Gulf of Mexico out to 20 nautical miles.
Universal Coverage of *CG
Question. The Coast Guard Telecommunications Manual states that ''The Coast Guard uses *CG as the universal cellular telephone marine safety access code within the United States.'' What is the Coast Guard doing to ensure that *CG can be used universally to reach the appropriate Coast Guard facility with any cellular phone using any cellular telephone company? When will universal coverage of *CG be achieved in the United States?
Answer. Cellular telephones can be a reliable supplemental means (to VHFFM radio) of communication for boaters in distress to contact the U.S. Coast Guard for help. In many areas of the country, cellular service providers have implemented a ''*CG'' access code that routes calls from boaters directly to the applicable Coast Guard operations centers, free of charge to both the boater and Coast Guard. While maritime VHFFM radio remains the most effective and preferred method of voice communications, particularly in an emergency, the Coast Guard would like to partner with cellular service providers that have implemented, or desire to implement, ''*CG'' service for their customers. The Coast Guard has a standardized template for an agreement between the agency and the cellular service provider that has proven successful in areas around the country.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Coast Guard continues to encourage the use of VHFFM as the primary method of distress notification because ''*CG'' is a supplement to the VHFFM radio due to its limitations for a mariner in distress.
Cellular telephones do not have a public broadcast capability. Cellular telephone conversations cannot be heard by other boaters in the area who may be in a position to render immediate aid to someone in distress.
Determining the general area for cellular telephone caller requires close coordination with the cellular service provider, which is a time consuming endeavor.
Boaters who rely on cellular telephones cannot receive both routine and emergency marine safety information, such as Broadcast Notice to Mariners, Urgent Weather Advisories, Marine Assistance Request Broadcasts and Urgent Marine Information Broadcasts.
Distress notification may be delayed if a boater normally operates in an area that has ''*CG'' and then tries to call the Coast Guard using ''*CG'' in an area where the service is not provided.
It is unknown when universal coverage of ''*CG'' will be achieved since this is primarily a cellular service provider initiative.
Recreational Boat Standards
Question. Each year the Coast Guard buys recreational vessels and sinks them to see if they conform with Coast Guard safety standards. Have many of these recreational boats failed to meet Coast Guard standards in the past 5 years? Is that rate decreasing? What more can be done to ensure that all manufacturers are building safe boats?
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Answer. The recreational boat compliance-testing program is an enforcement program through which the Coast Guard buys new boats off the showroom floor and tests them for compliance with Federal flotation standards. The failure rate in this program over the last five years has varied between 65 percent and 75 percent, with no decreasing trend. One contributing factor to this high failure rate is the Coast Guard's ability to identify and select boats for testing which appear to have the highest potential to fail the flotation test.
The Coast Guard recently reestablished a Factory Visit Program through which contractor personnel representing the Coast Guard will visit each recreational boat manufacturer every other year. During these visits, the contractor will communicate to the manufacturer the importance of complying with the regulations, educate the manufacturer on how to comply with the regulations, and inspect the boats under construction for compliance with the regulations. This program is expected to improve manufacturer performance in building safer boats.
Enforcement of Federal Boat Safety Laws
Question. While the Auxiliary does a great job in boater education and performing safety checks, they are not law enforcement officers. How many man-hours does the regular Coast Guard spend on the water enforcing federal boat safety laws (not including their hours spent performing other missions)?
Answer. The Coast Guard does not track man-hours for its law enforcement missions. However, the Coast Guard does track boat and cutter resource hours spent on recreational boating safety (RBS) enforcement. In fiscal year 2000, the Coast Guard spent a total of 30,539 resource hours (boats: 27,102 hours/cutters: 3,437 hours) on RBS enforcement. These figures do not include Coast Guard Auxiliary hours. It is also important to remember that, although these hours are reported as RBS hours, every boarding conducted on a US flagged or state registered vessel contain elements of RBS enforcement even though these boardings may be reported as drug or fisheries enforcement.
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Requirement for Children to Wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
Question. Boat-US testified that your recent proposal to require children under 13 to wear lifejackets won't do much good. They state that of the 31 children who drowned in boating accidents in 1999, 19 were from States that already require children to wear lifejackets, 8 of the children were already wearing a life jacket, 2 died while the boat was anchoredand not subject to the regulation, and 3 were swimming. How do you respond to this analysis?
Answer. Coast Guard analysis of the 1999 boating accident report data indicated that of the 31 children who drowned in 1999, there were 7 children, age 12 and under, in states with no age requirement to wear a life jacket, who did not wear a life jacket and drowned. A requirement to wear a life jacket may have saved their lives. There were 16 children, age 12 and under, in states with a requirement to wear a life jacket, who did not wear a life jacket and drowned; and 7 who drowned while wearing a life jacket, 4 from states that require wearing a PFD and 3 from states that do not. Additionally, 1 child who was swimming came aboard the boat, removed the life jacket, fell overboard, and drowned.
Currently, 37 states and territories require certain children to wear personal flotation devices on recreational vessels within their state or territory. The proposed federal regulation to require children under 13 to wear a PFD would serve to facilitate adoption of child PFD wear laws in states with no requirements. The proposed regulation may also encourage certain states to match the more stringent federal requirement.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The proposed regulation would enable the Coast Guard to help states with a child PFD wear requirement achieve greater compliance by the boating public. In the case of the children who drowned from states that have wearing requirements, stronger enforcement may have made a difference.
The Coast Guard's ultimate goal is to reduce the number of children who drown because they were not wearing life jackets, without preempting the states' efforts.
Operating Speed Limit for Personal Watercraft
Question. Is there a legal maximum operating speed to which a personal watercraft can be built? If not, should there be?
Answer. There is no legal maximum operating speed to which personal watercraft can be built; however, in April 1999, the Coast Guard consulted with the personal watercraft manufacturers and developed a voluntary industry speed cap of 65 mph on production model personal watercraft. This voluntary speed cap remains in place and the Coast Guard strongly endorses it.
The Coast Guard has no accident data or other relevant information to justify placing a construction speed cap on personal watercraft at this time. The Coast Guard will continue to monitor both the voluntary speed cap and the accident data to determine whether regulatory action might become necessary in the future.
Floatation Requirements for Canoes and Kayaks
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Question. The Coast Guard testimony highlighted the need to decrease the number of deaths on vessels such as canoes and kayaks. Why then do Coast Guard regulations exempt these vessels from all flotation requirements?
Answer. At the time of the development of the recreational boat safety regulations in the early 1970's, the accident data did not support the inclusion of canoes and kayaks in the requirements for inherent flotation. The accident data continues to support this. Almost all canoe and kayak accidents involve capsizing and people falling overboard. There are a negligible number of canoe and kayak sinkings, which is what flotation standards are meant to eliminate.
Canoes and Kayak Use and Accident Rate
Question. Does the Coast Guard know how many canoes and kayaks are being used in the United States? If not, is it possible to determine whether the accident rate using these vessels is increasing or decreasing?
Answer. The Coast Guard does not know how many canoes and kayaks are being used in the United States. Only a few states require that canoes and kayaks be registered. The Coast Guard has information on canoe and kayak use provided by the 1998 National Recreational Boating Survey conducted under a boating safety grant. A primary objective of the survey was to capture hours of use (exposure) for each type of recreational boat in order to calculate a meaningful fatality rate. It is best to base a performance safety indicator, such as fatality rate; on exposure in order to account for the amount of time boaters are actually using their boats on the water.
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The 1998 survey captured a snap shot of boat use for the year 1998 by sampling two segments of the boating publicregistered boat owners, and those that operate, but do not own a boat (renters or borrowers). Boat use data collected by this method and 1998 fatality data captured by the State Marine Casualty Reporting System enabled calculation of a national fatality rate for each type of boat. When adjusting the 1998 fatality data by the amount of estimated boat use, canoes and kayaks were determined to have the highest fatality rate relative to other types of boats per million hours of exposure.
In the fall of 2001, the Coast Guard plans to conduct a more comprehensive national boating survey. The upcoming survey will enable calculation of more precise estimates of boat use for various types of recreational boats. A similar large-scale survey is planned every five years.
Hull Identification Number Requirement
Question. The current law requires all vessels of the United States (not just recreational vessels) to have a hull identification number. Does the Coast Guard require all vessels manufactured or sold in the U.S. to have these numbers? If not, why not?
Answer. Current law (46 U.S.C. 12502) requires the Secretary of Transportation (through the Coast Guard) to maintain a unique numbering system and assign a number to each vessel of the United States. Since 1972, Federal regulations have required that all recreational vessels manufactured in or imported into the United States for sale must be assigned a hull identification number (HIN). As a result, the statutory requirement for a unique number for each vessel of the United States is being met through the use of HINs for vessels that have a valid HIN. Commercial vessels and older recreational vessels may not have a valid HIN. If a vessel does not have a valid HIN, the unique number required by 46 U.S.C. 12502 is the official number for Coast Guard-documented vessels, and the State registration number for undocumented vessels.
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Training Requirements for Coast Guard Auxiliary Instructors
Question. Does the Coast Guard have any standards for training of Coast Guard Auxiliary instructors and for continuing education of these instructors?
Answer. The Coast Guard is required by law to train and certify Auxiliary members before assigning them to any duty, including teaching boating safety courses. To become a certified instructor, a candidate must complete a training course, pass an examination, and teach a minimum of two courses under the supervision of a certified instructor. Selected instructors from each Auxiliary district attend a formal training course held several times each year in order to sharpen their skills. Graduates of this program pass their new skills on to other instructors in their home district. Instructors are required to practice their skills by teaching classes every year in order to maintain their certification.
Auxiliary Flotilla Standards
Question. Does the Coast Guard have any standards for evaluating individual Auxiliary flotillas? If not, how can the effectiveness of the various flotillas be compared?
Answer. Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas are encouraged to develop annual performance goals and are given a formal means of doing so. There are no specific standards. Flotillas are expected to interact with their local boating community, local government agencies, and local Coast Guard units to evaluate needs for various missions and programs, and then to structure the efforts of the flotilla and performance goals to meet those needs. Monitoring flotilla performance is a responsibility shared by the Auxiliary's elected leadership (e.g., the Division Captain, the area Rear Commodore) and the Coast Guard's District Director of Auxiliary. Annual performance awards and formal recognition ceremonies for both flotillas and individual members are a key component of motivating volunteers. These awards are their ''paycheck.'' Auxiliary members and leaders take these awards very seriously and compete aggressively for them, which, in turn, leads to greater levels of service provided to the public.
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