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The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says more need to be done to implement safety recomendations in wake of the Conception dive boat fire.
Now three years since the incident, only one of the three associations with members operating small passenger vessels with overnight accommodations have implemented the NTSB recommendations.
The Conception was anchored in Platts Harbor, off Santa Cruz Island, California, when it caught fire in the early morning of September 2, 2019. The vessel burned to the waterline and sank less than 100 feet from shore, killing 34 people who were sleeping below deck in the bunk room. 33 passengers and one crew member lost their lives.
Following the investigation, the NTSB issued 10 new safety recommendations: seven to the U.S. Coast Guard, two to associations that have members operating small passenger vessels with overnight accommodations, and one to Truth Aquatics, Inc., the operator of the vessel. The NTSB also reiterated its 2005 recommendation for the Coast Guard to require all U.S.-flag passenger vessels to implement a safety management system. Since 2005, the NTSB has investigated four passenger vessel accidents, including the Conception, where the lack of an SMS was an issue.
According to the NTSB, so far only the Passenger Vessel Association has taken sufficient action to satisfy the NTSB recommendations, while the Sportfishing Association of California and the National Association of Charterboat Operators have yet to respond.
“Three years ago, I made a promise to the victims’ families that I would vigorously work to ensure the safety recommendations we issued would be implemented,” said Chair Jennifer Homendy. “While I am encouraged by the progress that has been made, more work needs to be done. NTSB will continue to push until these recommendations are fully implemented.”
The Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2020 mandates that the USCG carry out all of the NTSB recommendations issued or reiterated as a result of the Conception investigation.
“We appreciate Congress addressing these safety issues in legislation, and for the cooperation and partnership of the Coast Guard,” said Chair Homendy. “But this shouldn’t have taken an act of Congress to improve safety. Passenger vessel owners and operators should act now to ensure no one else loses a loved one in another tragedy on our waterways.”
NTSB encourages operators of vessels with overnight accommodations to:
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