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Greater girths mean fewer berths aboard Washington State Ferries
Coast Guard changes weight capacity for passenger vessels across the country.
Americans weigh more than they used to and passenger vessels are feeling the impact.
The Coast Guard’s new boat stability rules, which took effect nationwide on Dec. 1., raise the estimated weight of a typical adult passenger to 185 pounds from the previous 160 pounds. As a result, a handful of vessels in the Washington State Ferries fleet have had weight capacities reduced.
“We are responding to the Centers for Disease Control’s new findings that folks on average are 185 pounds, so the old calculation no longer applies,” said Coast Guard Lieutenant Eric Young. “It’s one factor among many that goes into vessel stability … (these rules) are to achieve passenger safety and make sure vessels are operating within their stability standards.”
George Capacci, Deputy Chief of Operations and Construction for WSF, isn’t worried about the new regulations, as the boats affected have never reached their full passenger weight capacity anyway.
“This won’t have an impact on customers,” he said. “For us, it’s much ado about nothing. It’s a trend that the Centers for Disease Control recognize and the Coast Guard has been working on this for a long time.”
According to the Coast Guard regulations, this new rule is to “prevent passenger vessels from operating in overloaded conditions.”
Of WSF’s 23 vessels, the super-class boats Kaleeten, Yakima and Hyak are going from a capacity of 2000 passengers to 1782. All three boats serve the San Juans.
“They have never gotten to 2000 in the past 50 years,” Capacci said. “It’s not going to have a big impact on us; it’s the smaller vessels (in the country) that will have a problem.”
The Evergreen State is going from 984 to 882. Capacci says that vessel has also never come close to its capacity.
“Our limiting capacity is the car deck, and that’s not a weight problem,” Capacci said. “This whole average assumed weight per passenger is targeted more at sight-seeing boats and dinner cruises … these regulations are not a big concern for us.”
— Islands' Sounder staff report