Senate approves Coast Guard reauthorization

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The U.S. Senate passed the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017, which includes several provisions championed by the boating industry and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The NMMA said it played “a pivotal role” in shaping the bill.

“NMMA applauds the Senate for passing this critical legislation, which includes several provisions that will directly improve boating safety and ensure the 142 million Americans who take to the water each year continue to have safe, enjoyable experiences,” said NMMA president Thom Dammrich in a statement.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act, S.1129, puts the industry on a path to expand the use of alternative distress signals like LED lights and emergency position-indicating radio beacons, a move that will equip boaters with safer, longer-lasting, and more environmentally friendly options to signal for help in case of an emergency, said Dammrich.

“This bill also provides new training for 911 dispatchers to better distinguish situations that require a U.S. Coast Guard response from those that should be directed to a local or third-party entity — a worthwhile initiative that will help boaters receive assistance when they need it and reduce unnecessary burdens on Coast Guard personnel,” said Dammrich.

While this legislation does not mandate wearing of engine cutoff devices, the bill “takes the important steps of requiring manufacturers to install these devices in most boats under 26 feet — something many currently do at no cost to the consumer — and incentivizes the Coast Guard to promote their use,” said Dammrich.

“Wearing engine cutoff devices is a vital safety measure for boaters and law enforcement alike,” he said. “This proposal is supported across the recreational boating community and we encourage Congress and the Coast Guard to take additional steps toward implementing mandatory wear of engine cutoff devices soon.”

The bill reforms Certificates of Documentation, or registrations, for recreational boats by extending renewal dates from one year to five years.

“Furthermore, this bipartisan legislation reduces the risks posed by ballast water discharges from commercial vessels — which will minimize the likelihood of introducing aquatic invasive species in our waterways, while ensuring these discharges, and recreational boats, continue to be regulated under the Clean Water Act,” said Dammrich.

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