Accessibility on small passenger vessels

While the passenger vessel industry recognizes the importance of providing access to physically challenged passengers, it also realizes that there is some point where the safety of all passengers should override the special access needs of a few. This is especially true for very small vessels.

The proposed Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines for passenger vessels have evolved through two sets of drafts. Based on public comments to the Access Board from the first draft, a second draft was developed. Just how much the new guidelines could cost passenger vessel operators hasn’t been spelled out yet. Two preliminary case studies by the Access Board showed estimated construction cost increases of 2.6 to 12 percent. The final rule will address costs and benefits. (See story on page 26.)

To develop an accurate picture of the new rule’s potential costs and benefits, the board is working closely with passenger vessel industry representatives who have data on current construction costs and industry practices as well as the knowledge and skills to assess potential effects.

The biggest change from the original draft is the inclusion of all ferries regardless of size and tenders that carry 60 or more passengers. The first draft covered vessels that carry over 150 passengers or 49 overnight passengers. Public comment was requested on four potential options to address access on small vessels. The options include:

• Require small vessels to comply with the same requirements as larger vessels except where it is not operationally or structurally feasible.

• Require small vessels to comply with Subchapters C and T, New Construction Access Specifications for Small Passenger Vessels (www.access-board.gov/pvaac/commrept/chapter12.htm).

• Develop general performance requirements that must be met by listing objectives, rather than detailed design requirements, to determine if a vessel is accessible.

Since the Passenger Vessel Association had been focusing on larger vessels, PVA needs to collect cost and impact data from owners and operators of smaller vessels to build a complete picture for its broad industry-based comments. Please e-mail your information to Peter Lauridsen at PVA: peterlauridsen@msn.com. Comments must be e-mailed to the Access Board (pvag@access-board.gov) by Nov. 13.

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