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Boating safety bill introduced in Congress

Recreational boats would be required to post passenger capacity limits under new legislation introduced in the Senate. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) introduced a new version of the Boating Capacity Standards Act of 2013 (S. 2774). Though Schumer introduced the bill shortly before Congress left of its summer recess, it did not become available online on the congressional website until Monday, Aug. 18, 2014.

The rule would not apply to all recreational boats subject to inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) that operate for recreation and carry paying passengers. But it would apply to any vessel made especially for pleasure use; including those leased, rented or chartered. It defines "passenger" as anybody on board.

The bill would also require USCG to come up with standards for determining safe passenger capacity and to write rules implementing the act within six months of its passage. The rules would have to include penalties for boat manufacturers that fail to comply with the regulations.

The required postings would also include a warning on the need to balance the weight of the boat by evenly distributing passengers. Schumer is responding to a disaster that occurred in New York State last year in which a passenger boat capsized killing people on board. The warnings would have to be visible to passengers.

The bill picked up no initial cosponsors. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-New York) also introduced a measure on May 9 that would have the similar requirements. But Israel's Boating Occupancy & Teaching Safety (BOATS) Act (H.R. 4642) also includes provisions regarding state boating safety education classes. This section is absent from Schumer's bill. Israel introduced the bill on May 9. It was referred to the committees on Agriculture and Ways & Means and the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs. None of the committees has acted on it. No one has cosponsored this bill either.