The Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act became law with the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act.
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, introduced the measure in response to the 2019 Conception boat fire, which cost 34 lives off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, a Democrat representing Ventura County, was the safety act’s co-author in the House, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced the bill in the Senate.
The act requires the Coast Guard to implement safety reforms to prevent fires such as the Conception tragedy.
“It puts forth a number of recommendations that the National Transportation Safety Board put forward,” Rep. Carbajal told the News-Press by phone from Washington, D.C.
The act requires small passenger boats, such as the Conception, to have no fewer than two avenues to escape from different parts of the boat.
It also requires safety standards for the handling and storage of devices with lithium ion batteries, such as phones, cameras and other electronic equipment.
And it establishes increased standards for interconnected fire alarm systems.
Rep. Carbajal said he was proud to work on the safety act with U.S. Rep. Brownley and Sen. Feinstein.
“The Conception boat fire was a tragedy that could have been prevented had stronger safety measures been in place,” Sen. Feinstein said in a statement. “We can’t allow this to happen again.”
The act is part of the National Defense Reauthorization Act, which became law after the House and Senate last week voted to override President Donald Trump’s veto.