Life raft reprieve
March 2, 2016
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Fishermen get a lengthy life raft reprieve. More after this –
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Last week a new law was set to be in place requiring life rafts for fishing boats operating beyond the three mile limit. Commonly used life rings or other flotation devices would no longer meet safety requirements. Instead, no safety device that leaves any part of a person’s body immersed would be acceptable. But word came after the February 26 deadline that is no longer the case.
For some reason Congress, the Senate and the House, put some riders on a Coast Guard appropriation bill to change the implementation of these increased survival craft rules. It’s all been put on hold.
Steve Ramp is a Coast Guard Commercial Fishing Vessel Examiner based in Sitka. He said a few weeks before the deadline, Congress chose to repeal the life raft requirements. Instead, lawmakers opted for a formal rule making process before any new safety rules can be put in place. That requires a lengthy process of publishing the proposed law, public comment and review periods, and then formally writing the new rules into regulations.
That process we anticipate will take a year or more.
The new rules would have applied to any vessel operating more than three miles from shore, even small hand trollers or halibut skiffs. Currently, only boats 36 feet or larger, or those carrying four or more people, are required to have so called ‘buoyant apparatus.’ Those larger boats would have been required to upgrade to a life raft by November 1 of this year. But Ramp says that’s now on hold.
Everyone can continue to operate as they have prior to now.
The life raft law change affects thousands of fishermen across Alaska. And the item is pricey, costing from $1,700 to $2,500. Those who already have purchased a raft can try returning them; or they could take legal action against the government for being forced to purchase equipment unnecessarily. However, Ramp believes the rafts are likely to be required in the near future, and he encourages fishermen to have them onboard.
It will make them operate in a safer situation if something happens to the boat if they have the device they bought rather than nothing but that’s a decision each fishermen’s going to have to make on their own that purchased one.
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.