New York senator seeks capacity-limit legislation

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In the wake of the Independence Day boating tragedy on Long Island Sound, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced legislation that would require the posting of capacity limits on boats over 20 feet.

“In light of the Coast Guard’s refusal to act, Schumer [Thursday] introduced the Boating Capacity Standards Act of 2012, which will require the Coast Guard to develop capacity limits for boats over 20 feet in length and require capacity limits to be posted on all new boats to help prevent future tragedies,” Schumer’s office said in a statement.

In July, Schumer urged the Coast Guard to voluntarily adopt regulations after three children died when a 34-foot Silverton carrying 27 passengers capsized in Cove Neck after an Independence Day fireworks show.

Although an investigation examining the reasons for the capsizing is still under way, there have been “numerous questions raised about overall capacity capabilities for such vessels,” the statement read.

“This tragedy shocked New Yorkers and Americans across the country, and we vowed to do everything we could to prevent it from happening again,” Schumer said in a statement released Thursday. “Because the U.S. Coast Guard refuses to step up to the plate and require boats to post capacity limits, today I’m introducing legislation requiring them to do so. The Boat Capacity Standards Act of 2012 will ensure that all boaters, no matter the size of their vessel, are aware of how many people should be on board and will help honor the memory of the children who died on that terrible day.”

In his letter to the Coast Guard in July, Schumer noted that because the boat that capsized was longer than 20 feet it did not require a Coast Guard Capacity Information plaque on board. Schumer argued that such a visibly displayed plaque can help dissuade boat owners and passengers from overcrowding a vessel, serving to prevent future tragedies.

Schumer also cited an accident in which the Ethan Allen, a 40-foot boat, capsized and sank on Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains on Oct. 2, 2005. The boat held 47 passengers, and 20 died. Originally constructed to accommodate 48 passengers, the Ethan Allen had been modified with a canopy that should have lowered the capacity to 14 passengers, the statement said. That accident also caused regulators to consider new laws related to boat capacity limits.

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