S.89 – A bill to amend title 46, United States Code, to exempt old vessels that only operate within inland waterways from the fire-retardant materials requirement if the owners of such vessels make annual structural alterations to at least 10 percent of the areas of the vessels that are not constructed of fire-retardant materials and for oth

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Week ending April 5, 2017

S.89 – A bill to amend title 46, United States Code, to exempt old vessels that only operate within inland waterways from the fire-retardant materials requirement if the owners of such vessels make annual structural alterations to at least 10 percent of the areas of the vessels that are not constructed of fire-retardant materials and for other purposes.

Brief

The purpose of S. 89 is to amend title 46 of the United States Code to exempt old vessels that only operate within inland waterways from the fire-retardant materials requirement if the owners of such vessels make annual structural alterations to at least 10 percent of the areas of the vessels that are not constructed of fire-retardant materials.’

The steamer Delta Queen is a 20th century passenger vessel with an entirely wooden superstructure.\1\ This superstructure was deemed unsafe in 1966 when Congress declared that, “no passenger vessel of the United States . . . shall be granted a certificate of inspection . . . unless the vessel is constructed of fire-retardant materials.

In 2008, a traveling inspector from the Coast Guard inspected the Delta Queen and noted “evidence of a lack of both short- and long-term maintenance that adversely impacts the safety of the vessel . . . all of which has to do with unintended or excess but unnecessary fire load.”\6\ The fire load of the vessel is concentrated in the lower decks. The most likely place for a fire to start would be the almost 100 year old boilers. The boilers are not entirely contained within the steel hull and the tops of the boilers are open directly to the aged and dry wood superstructure of the vessel.\7\ Given that the vessel currently lacks thermal and structural boundaries, a fire within any part of the vessel could quickly spread horizontally and vertically. In a worst-case scenario, a fire would begin in the boilers, overwhelm the vessel’s fire suppression system, and spread throughout the whole of the lower deck and into the sleeping quarters directly above the lower deck. If such a fire were to happen, the planned evacuation route would be made irrelevant because the only exit in the present configuration of the vessel is via the stage (gangway) on the bow, directly through the likely location of the fire.\8\ The Coast Guard has repeatedly advised and requested that the operators of the vessel add a second exit to the vessel’s current configuration, but the operators have not acted.\9\ accordingly, this bill would incentivize structural improvements to the Delta Queen while also recognizing the historical importance of the vessel.

Thus the bill.

(Full text of S. 89 at congress.gov)

Sponsor: Sen. McCaskill, Claire [D-MO] (Introduced 01/10/2017)

Status:Passed Senate /

VOTES and FLOOR ACTION

HOUSE

On Passage:

House Amendments:

Motion to recommit:

Text of the motion:

SENATE

On Passage: The bill passed by a vote of 85-12.

Procedural Actions:

Senate Amendments:

COST AND IMPACT

Cost to the taxpayers: CBO estimates that enacting S. 89 would have no effect on the federal budget because the proposed exemption would not affect the U.S. Coast Guard’s costs to meet its underlying responsibility to inspect vessels; spending for such inspections is provided in annual appropriation acts.

Pay-as-you-go requirements: Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.

Regulatory and Other Impact: S. 89 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments.

Dynamic Scoring: CBO estimates that enacting S. 89 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.

Tax Complexity: Not applicable to this bill.

Earmark Certification: Data not available

Duplication of programs: Data not available

Direct Rule-Making: Data not available

Advisory Committee Statement: Data not available

Budget Authority: Data not available

Constitutional Authority: Assumed.

More Bill Information:

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