Propeller Injury Avoidance Measures

USCG Proposes "Propeller Injury Avoidance Measures" on Houseboats

Rule cites houseboats, but subsequent BSAC recommendations would include almost all boats with propellers

On December 10, 2001 the US Coast Guard published in the Federal Register a proposal that requires owners of non-planing houseboats with propeller-driven propulsion, located aft of the transom, to install one of two propulsion unit measures or measures that employ three combined measures.

The proposal requires owners who lease, rent, or charter non-planing recreational houseboats to install either a jet drive system, propeller guards or three combined measures. The three combined measures include installing swim ladder interlocks, a clear visibility aft device, and an ignition cut-off switch.

Owners of non-planing, non-rental houseboats would not be required to install the interlocks and the clear visibility aft device, but not the ignition cutoff switch.

The US Coast Guard is also requesting proposed language for definitions of the terms: clear vision aft, houseboat, ignition cut-off switch, non-planing vessel, and swim platform interlock.

The National Boating Safety Advisory Committee (BSAC) subcommittee has spent many years working with the US Coast Guard on this issue. BSAC has recommended that the US Coast Guard include a larger group of vessels and requirements in four specific regulations. The US Coast Guard has decided that this proposal will only focus on non-planing houseboats, but states that they will address the other BSAC recommendations in subsequent regulatory projects. The four BSAC recommendations are:

  1. Owners of all propeller driven vessels over 12 feet, with propellers aft of the transom, be required to display propeller warning labels and employ an emergency cut off switch;
  2. Manufacturers and importers of new planing vessels over 12 feet to 26 feet, with propellers aft of the transom, select and install one of several factory installed propeller avoidance measures and;
  3. Manufacturers and importers of new non-planing vessels 12 feet in length and longer, with propellers aft of the transom, to select and install one of several factory installed propeller injury avoidance methods; and
  4. Owners of all non-planing rental boats, with propellers aft of the transom, are required to install a jet propulsion system, a propeller guard, or all of the injury avoidance measures.

NMMA plans to work closely with the USCG in developing this rule. NMMA is mostly concerned that this rule could have a significant cost impact on houseboat manufacturers and houseboat rental operations. The proposal estimates the total cost to rental operations as $300. NMMA believes that these costs may be underestimated. In addition, the USCG bases the need for this rule on a total of 18 reported propeller related injuries and two deaths between the years 1990 and 1999. NMMA clearly supports steps to reduce boating accidents and fatalities, but does raise the question as to whether in this case, the risk justifies the cost of the regulation.

The USCG has also made a determination that a SBREFA (Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Flexibility Act) panel will not be necessary because the rule will not have a significant economic impact on small businesses. NMMA believes that this determination requires further discussion and analysis.

The US Coast Guard is requesting written comments are due by May 15, 2002.