January 25, 2016
This is Fish Radio. I’m Stephanie Mangini. New rules for life rafts start next month. More after this…
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By the end of next month there will be new Coast Guard safety regulations for the use of flotation devices on all sea vessels. Smaller passenger vessels will no longer be able to use life rings and other flotation devices as the only form of survival gear, but instead equipped their boat with a life raft to assure that in the case of a vessel sinking, every passenger is safely out of water.USCG
“The big thing to remember about cold water is that there is one thing to be wet and cold, it’s another thing to be immersed in cold water.”
 Scott Wilwert is the Coast Guard Fishing Safety Coordinator in Juneau.
 “On February 26 2016 survival craft requirements for commercial fishing vessels as well as other classes of passenger vessels will change in a way that if a vessel is operating beyond three miles from the territorial sea baseline of the United States, as charted on a nautical chart. They are required to have a survival craft that does not allow for the immersed segment of a person’s body.”
Wilwert explains the new changes.
 “Previously certain vessels depending on their length and the amount of persons on board could go out 12 miles and either A. Need no survival craft at all, if they were less than 36ft with three or fewer people, or if they were over 36ft or had more than three persons on board; one of the common survival craft that folks would carry was the buoyant apparatus and the life float.”
The two flotation devices Wilwert describes are the orange life ring and the long rectangular red float that you would throw to a person who fell overboard. With the new regulations these two pieces of survival gear will no longer be Coast Guard approved.
 “Anyone who was able to use those out to 12 miles can no longer use them beyond 3 miles. So the big change at the 3 mile line now for any fishing vessel, state registered, documented, regardless of length, regardless of people on board have to step up to that survival craft that is called an inflatable buoyant apparatus or a full life raft.”
Wilwert points out that even those who got mandatory dockside safety exams last fall, will need to recheck their survival gear to comply with the new regulations. He urges people to call the Coast Guard to see if a vessel falls under the new rule, and to act fast to get boats equipped with the approved gear.
 “If you know that it affects you then I would definitely start working with a local marine supplier and get one coming your way.”
For more information go to www.fishsafewest.info and find links at our websitewww.alaskafishradio.com
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, serving Alaska’s fishing communities since 1910. On the web at  www.oceanbeauty.com  – In Kodiak, I’m Stephanie Mangini.