Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and Julia Brownley, D-Ventura, introduced a bill Thursday to establish new safety measures for small passenger vessels in the aftermath of the Conception boat fire in the waters of Santa Cruz Island earlier this year.
The bill, titled the Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act, requires small passenger vessels to have no less than two means of escape to different parts of the vessel, mandates safety standards for the handling and storage of phones, cameras and other electronic devices with lithium ion batteries, and establishes stricter standards for interconnected fire alarm systems, according to a news release.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 2, the commercial dive vessel caught fire and killed 34 passengers on board. A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that smoke alarms on the vessel only sounded locally and were not interconnected throughout the vessel. The final report by the NTSB is expected to be released 12 to 18 months following the incident.
Following the tragedy, the Coast Guard issued marine safety information urging operators to limit the unsupervised charging of lithium ion batteries and the use of extension cords to reduce potential fire hazards.
“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,” Rep. Carbajal said in a statement. “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 Brownley, to bring forward a bill that makes our waters safer and makes important updates to an outdated system.”
Sen. Feinstein said the bill addresses the specific conditions that are being investigated as cause of the boat fire and urged Congress to act before another tragedy strikes.