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Following Conception disaster, Carbajal introduces bill to strengthen boat safety rules

Posted at 6:05 PM, Dec 12, 2019

Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-24th District) and Rep. Julia Brownley (D-26th District) on Thursday introduced a bill meant to strengthen maritime safety standards.

The Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act of 2019 comes in the wake of the deadly Conception boat fire. Thirty-four people were killed when the boat caught fire and sank off Santa Cruz Island early Labor Day morning.

The NTSB and Coast Guard are investigating the cause of the fire. Some have speculated that a lithium ion battery charger may have sparked the blaze as a number of cameras and cell phones were plugged in and charging while the passengers slept.

Last month, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing about the boat fire. According to Carbajal's office, it was revealed that many boats like the Conception are operating under antiquated safety regulations.

In November, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Conception was exempted by the Coast Guard from stricter safety rules designed to make it easier for passengers to escape.

The Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act would:

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

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) introduced the Senate version of the bill.