Transportation Legislation

House passes bill aimed at boosting maritime vessel safety

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Photo: Art Wager/iStockphoto

Washington — The House on June 27 unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that would require the U.S. Coast Guard to perform maritime vessel inspections that include ensuring crews and ships have necessary safety equipment and current weather forecast charts.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced the Maritime Safety Act of 2018 (HR 6175) on June 21 in response to the October 2015 sinking of the U.S. cargo ship El Faro during Hurricane Joaquin. All 33 people on board were killed.

The bill enacts the final action memorandum of the Coast Guard Commandant after the El Faro sinking. The legislation also would require the Coast Guard to ensure vessels are equipped with floating voyage data recorders that have emergency position-locating beacons. Speaking June 27 during a full markup of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Hunter said the VDR aboard the El Faro sank at sea.

“The nation relies on our merchant mariners and the U.S.-flagged ships they sail, and we owe it to them to learn from the lessons of past tragedies,” Hunter said in a June 27 press release. “The Maritime Safety Act of 2018 incorporates a number of safety recommendations from the El Faro tragedy, and I’m confident that it will make great strides in improving the safety of our mariners.”

Bill co-sponsor Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) echoed that sentiment during the markup discussion.

“The bill strikes an appropriate balance between what the Coast Guard can do administratively, what the Coast Guard needs to do within the International Maritime Organization, and what new authorities and direction the Coast Guard needs to provide,” Garamendi said.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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