USCG moves ahead on passenger vessel SMS requirement

Written by Nick Blenkey
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KPIX CBS TV footage shows ferocity of Conception dive boat fire that cost 34 lives

The U.S. Coast Guard is moving forward with plans to require that U.S. flag passenger vessels have Safety Management Systems—structured and documented sets of procedures enabling company and vessel personnel to effectively implement safety and environmental protection policies that are specific to the company or vessel.

For nearly two decades, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has identified issues associated with failed safety management and oversight as the probable cause or a contributing factor in some of the most serious casualties involving U.S. passenger vessels, such as a deadly 2003 strike of a pier by of passenger ferry and fires on board small passenger vessels in 2000 and 2018.

This led to NTSB issuing several formal safety recommendations seeking the required use of SMSs on U.S. passenger vessels, and highlighting the continued problems stemming from poor safety management.

Most recently, required use of an SMS was among several recommendations made by NTSB following the deadly Conception dive boat fire that killed 34 people.

The Coast Guard has now taken an initial regulatory step towards implementing an SMS requirement by publishing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register.

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