The Alaska USCG, in conjunction with local harbormasters and the uninspected passenger vessel industry, is promoting a new Five-Star Safety Rating Program for the industry. This initiative is voluntary and is designed to upgrade the safety of the smallest size class of passenger vessels. The safest vessels will earn a Five-Star Safety Rating.
Small, uninspected passenger vessel operations
have expanded dramatically in Alaska, with thousands of Alaskans and tourists embarking on them every year. There are more than 2,000 of these vessels in Alaska that can carry six or less passengers for hire and are not inspected by the USCG.
In the wake of the sinking of two of these small passenger vessels in Alaska this past summer, the 17th USCG District sought ways to raise the level of safety for this class of passenger vessels.
These vessels are the least regulated of commercial passenger vessels, and are sometimes referred to as "six packs" because of the maximum number of passengers they can carry. There is no required inspection of these vessels, and the mandated safety equipment on board is not much more than a recreational boat is required to carry.
Presently, these vessels are not required to carry liferafts, EPIRBS or backup emergency communications, nor is there a safety audit program in place.
The Five-Star Safety Program
is presently under development. The USCG's goal is to initiate and test this program in the summer of 2000, and, eventually, after refining the safety system, to make it the "Standard of Care" for Alaska uninspected passenger vessel operations. The program concept is to assign star safety ratings for crew training; life rafts or rescue boats; EPIRBS and emergency communications; and bilge alarms.