Issues concerning the safety of passenger boats and ferries have been in the news for a while now. Earlier this year, a tourist boat-accident in the Delaware River in Philadelphia, left two Hungarian students dead. The two were part of a tourist group on the boat, when it stalled suddenly on the Delaware River. A few minutes later, a tow boat barreled into the tourist boat, sinking the ferry, and throwing the 37 passengers on the boat into the water. At the time of impact, few of the passengers were in their life jackets. Fortunately, most of the passengers survived the tragedy. This accident was just the most recent in a series that have illustrated just how unsafe passengers in these vessels are. The passenger vessel industry lobby in the form of the Passenger Vessel Association, has strongly opposed boating safety measures that have been proposed by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB has recommended the creation of a safety checklist that would be documented, and would contain all the steps that crews would have to take in case of an emergency. Passenger ferries that have the capacity for more than 399 passengers would be required to have such safety management systems in place. The document would contain safety procedures that must be followed every time the boat is on the water, and frequent inspections by the Coast Guard or any other third party official would penalize the boating company, if these standards were found lacking. All that sounds great on paper, but the Passenger Vessel Association has successfully blocked any measures to mandate such rules. According to the PVA, most of these operators know their vessels very well, and it makes little sense to require them to have a written document containing all the safety procedures. In the absence of a well-established safety management system, we have had terrible accidents like the one that occurred on the Delaware River. Passengers will continue to be at risk as long as ferry operators and passenger boat operators have their way. Maritime lawyer Brian Beckcom is a Board-Certified Trial Lawyer whose primary focus is the representation of Jones Act seamen, including tankermen, galley hands, deckhands, cruise line crews, fishing vessel crew members, offshore workers and other maritime workers in accidents in Texas, across the country and international waters.
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