Weight/stability rule could hurt passenger vessel industry

The Coast Guard’s recently released weight/stability rule could have a big effect on passenger vessel operators. The Passenger Vessel Association said it could be “the single most challenging rule facing the passenger vessel industry” because it could negatively affect passenger vessel operators for many years.

Passenger vessel capacity on H, K, T and S boats is limited by several design factors including stability. The Coast Guard’s proposed rule would amend regulations governing passenger vessel stability and the maximum number of passengers that may safely be permitted onboard a vessel. Updating the regulations “to more accurately reflect today’s average weight per person will maintain vessel stability standards,” the Coast Guard said in a news release announcing the publication of the proposed rule.

Under the proposal, the average weight of a passenger would increase from 160 lbs. to 185 lbs. for intact and damage stability calculations. The proposal also provides for periodic changes to average passenger weight as population demographics change.

The proposed changes could be quite complex, expensive, and time-consuming if a vessel owner decides that they must modify their vessels to meet the new standards. If a vessel owner must simply reduce passenger capacities, it will result in lost revenue. Possibly the most expensive and bothersome part of the proposal is the need for a full stability verification every 10 years and a much stricter periodic validation of vessel stability.

There are complex calculations required that may call for hiring a qualified naval architect or using an in-house or a local shipyard-trained architect. The planned changes involve subdivisions, damage stability, and watertight integrity. Various reconfigurations will be required for power-driven vessels, sailboats, monohulls, and multihulls.

There is some flexibility available to owner/operators, and there are various levels of Coast Guard personnel, such as local OCMIs, that will be brought in to evaluate and then authorize approved modifications.

PVA has put together a lineup of experts to discuss the proposed rule at its 2008 regional meetings that run through Dec. 2.

To submit comments and related materials to the docket, go to http://www.regulations.go v , docket number: USCG-2007-0030. The public comment period ends Nov. 18.

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