Thread: Change the law
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Old 09-11-2007, 05:57 AM
Alan Bates Alan Bates is offline
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 841

As Franz has noted, merely being non-combustible is a simplistic view of what happens in fires. Many other facets of construction should be taken into consideration. For example, all of the passenger staterooms on the Delta Queen have doors leading directly to open decks. Passengers are not obliged to traverse long and convoluted hallways to reach open air, therefor they are not as vulnerable to toxic fumes as on most passenger vessels. The USCG rules do not recognize factors such as this.
The USCG is concerned about stability in high waves, yet applies the same rules to vessels that never meet them.
The USCG cannot comprehend the confined clearances, shallow water, lock dimensions, bridge clearances, meeting other vessels and overhead obstacles that are a full-time concern to rivermen, but applies the same rules to them as for ships on unlimited oceans.
On a personal level the USCG has a remarkable lack of understanding. When I designed the Natchez we had a three-weeks-long argument whether the wood in the paddlewheel constituted a fire hazard! This was extreme, I know, but it was real and the USCG examiner truly believed it did. Another insisted that lighting fixtures thirty feet above the hull had to be waterproof. When we pointed out to him that the generator would be submerged ten feet underwater by then he would not back down.
Riverboat designers resolved the compartmentation problems of shallow hulls almost a hundred years ago. They recognized that wide, shallow hulls are far more vulnerable to sinking than to capsizing. To this day the USCG cannot grasp that concept.
Our rivers carry far more tonnage than our ocean-going fleet, yet the USCG directs its energies and thought to salt water. It is time for a separate institution and a separate set of regulations to take over river safety issues.
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