The dumping of outgoing President Trump’s veto of the US National Defence Authorisation Act has unblocked the passage of commercial boat-safety legislation that had been introduced after the fatal Conception dive-liveaboard fire off California.
The Small Vessel Safety Act was a part of the overall legislation that was being delayed, but after Congress voted last week to override the presidential veto it passed into law. The US Coast Guard has now been directed to implement the sought-after safety reforms for charter boats.
The cause of the 2019 fire, which killed 34 people on a weekend dive-trip, could not be pinpointed because of the state of the wreck of the Conception when it was recovered, but a number of contributing factors were highlighted by inspection teams.
These included the unmonitored charging of devices using lithium-ion batteries; lack of provision of effective escape routes from the single bunk-room where those who died had all been sleeping; lack of a roving night-watch – neither the captain nor the crew had been awake when the fire broke out; and insufficient crew training or provision of fire-drills.
Older small boats in the USA carrying paying passengers have until now enjoyed numerous exemptions from safety regulations, but the law now in force is designed to cover all vessels regardless of their age.