Bipartisan duck boat safety act passed unanimously by US Senate

Stretch Duck 7 after it was recovered from the waters of Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, following its sinking during a heavy-winds storm on July 19, 2018 (Photo: NTSB/Brian Young)

The US Senate has unanimously passed bipartisan legislation calling for improvement in the safety of duck boats following a deadly sinking in Missouri’s Table Rock Lake in 2018.

The Duck Boat Safety Enhancement Act of 2019 authored by US Senator Josh Hawley would authorise previously outlined National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations, including commonsense provisions to require the use of life jackets and equipping all operating duck boats to be more buoyant in the case of emergency flooding.

Amendments were made to the bill during the committee process. Those amendments include:

  • Requirement to log actions – Operators of amphibious passenger vehicles must check and notate in the vessel’s logbook the National Weather Service forecast before getting underway and periodically while underway and log that they informed and visually checked that seatbelts are not worn during waterborne operations.
  • Mandatory annual training – Operators and crew of amphibious passenger vehicles must complete annual training in several areas, including personal flotation and seat belt requirements, verifying the integrity of the vessel, identifying water hazards, use of National Weather Services resources, and responding to emergency situations.
  • Consideration of recommendations from reports – In addition to the recommendations following the incident in Table Rock, Missouri, the bill requires the US Coast Guard to address recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board and Coast Guard Marine Investigation Board reports on incidents in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Seattle, Washington.
  • Reports and technical changes – The amended text incorporates several technical changes and a requirement that the commandant of the coast guard provide a report to congress regarding the status of implementation of the regulations.

On July 19, 2018, 17 people died and 11 others were injured when the Ripley Entertainment-owned duck boat Stretch Duck 7 capsized on Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm near Branson, Missouri, in one of the deadliest boating accidents in US history.

Legislation co-author US Senator Roy Blunt said the Duck Boat Safety Enhancement Act implements reasonable safety recommendations from the NTSB that would have prevented the tragedy on Table Rock Lake and will preserve both safety and enjoyment for future duck boat riders.

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