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In the News -February 2007

Flaws develop; CG pulls converted patrol boats

The Coast Guard late last year suspended normal operations of eight cutters that had been converted from 110 to 123 feet due to additional structural damage recently discovered in the hulls.

The move comes amid criticism that the agency’s $25 billion fleet-wide recapitalization program has been poorly managed and is turning out flawed ships.

The patrol boats, all assigned to Coast Guard Sector Key West, Fla., were the first modified under the Coast Guard’s Integrated Deepwater System. In all, the agency had planned to lengthen 49 of the 110-foot cutters to 123 feet. The goal was to increase each vessel’s annual operational hours from about 2,000 hours to 2,500.

In June 2005, the Coast Guard stopped the conversion process at eight hulls when it determined the modified cutters developed deck cracking, hull deformation and shaft-alignment problems related to other structural issues, according to the Coast Guard.

“We are making necessary adjustments to deploy aircraft and ships from other areas to maintain our robust coverage in the area while we develop a long-term solution,” says Adm. Thad Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard.

In December, both the New York Times and Washington Post newspapers published investigative articles detailing what they described as serious and systemic problems with the program stemming, in large part, from the Coast Guard’s failure to adequately oversee contractors. The reports cite potentially serious problems, including structural flaws in the composite hulls planned — and then scrapped — for the new Fast Response. The Coast Guard maintains a fleet of approximately 250 cutters and nearly 200 aircraft around the country.


Most dangerous job? Commercial fishing

Commercial fishermen experienced the highest fatality rate in 2005: 118.4 per 100,000 employees or nearly 30 times the rate of the average worker, according to a report released by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Forty-eight fishermen died in 2005, up from 38 the previous year.

Among the top 10 most dangerous jobs, the fishing industry was followed by logging (92.9 deaths per 100,000), aircraft pilots (66.9), structural iron/steel workers (55.6), refuse/recycling collectors (43.8), farmers/ranchers (41.1), electrical power line installer/repairers (32.7), drivers (29.1), miscellaneous agricultural workers (23.2), and construction laborers (22.7). In total, 5,702 workers reportedly died nationally in 2005.


Michelman appointed president of BoatU.S.

BoatU.S. senior vice president of membership Nancy Michelman has been promoted to president of the nation’s largest recreational boat owners advocacy group. Michelman succeeds Jim Ellis, who retires after 24 years with the organization.

Michelman joined BoatU.S. as manager of membership in 1989. She previously had worked for the American Automobile Association in new product development and had held other marketing and management roles in the public relations and international education fields. She is credited with growing BoatU.S. membership from 300,000 to more than 670,000.

“Listening to what our members have to say about their own boating experiences, challenges and needs is my priority,” she says. “I want to ensure that their voice is heard wherever I go, and I promise to take their messages to government, the boating industry and other boating partners.”

Michelman is the association’s fourth president in four decades. She boats on Chesapeake Bay with her husband, Laurence Schmukler, aboard their 20-foot Grady-White.

Ellis will retire at the end of the year. He will remain as a member of the board for the association as well as a board member of the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water.

Ellis was named president of the association in 2003, after holding the same title with the BoatU.S. Foundation and building that non-profit group into one of boating’s biggest safety and environmental advocates. Ellis, who is experienced with both power- and sailboats, was instrumental in establishing initiatives like the BoatU.S. Cooperating Marina Program, a marina marketing and member discount program. Ellis and his wife, Lori, will continue to reside in Annapolis, Md., but have extensive cruising plans aboard their trawler, Seaworthy.


Life rafts recalled; might not inflate

Danish life raft manufacturer Viking has recalled certain four-, six- and eight-person RescYou and RescYou Pro models because a potential problem could cause the pressure-relief valve to fail and prevent the raft from properly inflating.

Thanner & Co A/S, the company that supplies Viking with the valves, says its 65-type valve is the source of the problem, specifically the types labeled “UKL” (RescYou) and “UKSL” (RescYou Pro). The type and serial number can be found on the certificate of compliance an owner received with the raft, as well as on the registration label on the bottom of the life raft container or on the valise.

Owners are urged to check the type and serial number on their rafts and enter them at to see if it is recalled. Replacement valves will be done for free through Viking.


N.C. beachcombers find Nacho nirvana

Thousands of bags of Doritos corn chips washed ashore late last year on a beach on North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras. The bags of Cool Ranch, Nacho Cheese and Spicy Nacho Cheese chips came ashore after charter captains fishing for striped bass reportedly broke open a tractor-trailer-size container that apparently fell off a container ship, according to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. The container had drifted for several days before making landfall.

A stream of “salvagers” made their way to the beach and grabbed as many bags as they could carry. The chips reportedly stayed fresh because of their airtight packaging. The Coast Guard, which was attempting to track down the container ship responsible, considered the incident a case of litter.