U.S. Senate approves Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017

Legislation focuses on fine-tuning boating safety measures and first-responder personnel.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal bill updating Coast Guard policies on a myriad of recreational boating issues was approved by the U.S. Senate, Nov. 14; the final vote was 94-6, according to news reports.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017 (S. 1129) would open the door for more alternative distress signals, such as LED lights and radio beacons indicating vessel positions in times of distress, to be available to boaters.

Issues specifically covered within S. 1129 are navigational aids, personal flotation device requirements, vessel certification, alternate safety compliance program, installation of engine cut-off switches for certain recreational vessels and visual distress signals for boaters.

A statement issued by National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) President Thom Dammrich added the Coast Guard bill would train 911 dispatchers to direct emergency responses to the proper first-responders (such as local agencies or third-party entities).

“This legislation puts us on a path to expand the use of alternative distress signals like LED lights and emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs), a move that will equip boaters with safer, longer-lasting, and more environmentally friendly options to signal for help in case of an emergency,” Dammrich said in a released statement. “This bill also provides new training for 911 dispatchers to better distinguish situations that require a U.S. Coast Guard response from those that should be directed to a local or third-party entity – a worthwhile initiative that will help boaters receive assistance when they need it and reduce unnecessary burdens on Coast Guard personnel.”

  1. 1129 would also require manufacturers to install engine cutoff devices on most boats measuring 26 feet or smaller.

“In addition, this bill delivers commonsense reform to Certificates of Documentation (COD), or registrations, for recreational boats by extending renewal dates from one year to five years, allowing consumers to forgo redundant paperwork,” Dammrich continued. “This bipartisan legislation [also] reduces the risks posed by ballast water discharges from commercial vessels – which will minimize the likelihood of introducing aquatic invasive species in our waterways, while ensuring these discharges, and recreational boats, continue to be regulated under the Clean Water Act.”

Dammrich ultimately hailed S. 1129 as a bill aiming to make recreational boating safer while protecting law enforcement.

Other elements of S. 1129 include: new direction on Arctic operations, funding for cutter funding, ballast water discharges and maritime drug and border enforcement. The legislation provides a $2 billion funding increase for Coast Guard operations.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017 now moves forward to the House of Representatives; Pres. Donald J. Trump will see the bill for signing or veto if both houses of Congress approve of S. 1129.

An article posted on Capital Soup, a publication reporting on Florida news, stated the Coast Guard Authorization of 2017 would “ensure the Coast Guard has the resources it needs to carry out crucial lifesaving, disaster response, drug interdiction and national security missions.”

The Log will provided updated coverage of The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017 as it makes its way through the House of Representatives and (possibly) the president’s desk.

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