Carbajal, Brownley, Feinstein Introduce Conception Boat Safety Bill

Today, Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24) with Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26) introduced the Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act of 2019 to raise the standards of maritime safety and prioritize the well-being of the public. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Senate version of this bill.

“If we are to save lives and make necessary reforms in the wake of the Conception tragedy, we must no longer allow older vessels to operate under antiquated regulations at the expense of our public safety,” said Rep. Carbajal. “Our bill to modernize maritime safety is not only practical, it’s imperative. Over the years, we have seen enough evidence from previous disasters and other investigations to know that the time to put safety first is long overdue. I’m proud to work with my friends and fellow Californians, Senator Feinstein and Rep. Brownley, to bring forward a bill that makes our waters safer and makes important updates to an outdated system.”

“The Conception boat fire was a tragedy that could have been prevented had stronger safety measures been in place. We can’t allow this to happen again,” said Senator Feinstein. “We must ensure that small passenger vessels have the right safety measures in place to prevent disasters at sea. This bill addresses the specific conditions that are being investigated as causes of the Conception fire, conditions that exist on hundreds of similar vessels in operation today. Congress should act on this bill before another tragedy strikes.”

“While we await NTSB’s final report on the Conception incident, it is abundantly clear that Congress must take immediate action to address safety hazards on older boats, which were grandfathered-in and exempted from newer safety rules,” said Rep. Brownley. “I thank Senator Feinstein and Congressman Carbajal for their efforts to ensure the safety of passengers and crew, and I am proud to co-author this critical boat safety legislation.”

The Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act:

  • Requires small passenger vessels, such as the Conception, to have no less than two avenues of escape to different parts of the vessel.
  • Mandates safety standards for the handling and storage of devices with lithium ion batteries (like phones, cameras and other electronic equipment).
  • Establishes increased standards for interconnected fire alarm systems.

Full bill text can be found here.

This bill comes in the wake of the Conception boat fire tragedy that took 34 lives off the coast of Santa Barbara earlier this year. Last month, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing, at the request of Carbajal, to get answers from members of the U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board on safety regulations and next steps related to the Conception boat fire. At the hearing, the fact that many boats like the Conception continue to operate under antiquated safety regulations was of great concern.

Rep. Salud Carbajal represents California’s 24th Congressional District that includes San Luis Obispo County, part of Ventura County and Santa Barbara County, where the Conception boat fire occurred in September 2019.

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