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Safety Experts Concerned About Boating Industry Regulations

The boating industry is only lightly regulated by the federal government, which has safety experts warning about potential weaknesses on the water.

Safety expert Sean Kane said it's troubling how boats, unlike cars, are manufactured with very few regulations.

“In fact, the federal regulations are very scant, there's very little enforcement and you have a trade organization who are setting guidelines that are voluntary,” he said.

Boat manufacturers can pay a small fee to become a member of the American Boat and Yacht Council, allowing them to promote their products as using ABYC standards.

Other trade organizations also offer voluntary certifications and standards.

Safety experts have a big problem with that.

“If the industry sets their own standards, are they really pushing the envelope?” Kane asks. “Are they ensuring that the safety of their users are first and foremost? Or is it really about what's easiest and what's the bottom line?”

“Organizations like the ABYC come in and they fill in the blanks where the industry and the boaters and everyone else feels that they need to add some more robustness to those regulations,” ABYC President John Aedy said.

He compared the size of the book of federal rules and regulations to the much larger book of ABYC standards.

“The argument around policy is interesting because voluntary standards, how do you know they're being met and who's really checking on them and are they robust enough?” Kane asks.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association inspects boats before they are sold, but only the manufacturers take them out and test them in real life situations.

No one requires manufacturers to document the testing, Aedy said.

He said he’s not comfortable leaving the safety of your family to the federal government.

“Because we're a nonprofit, we can react so quickly to changes in manufacturing, to advances in technology, to safety issues we see come up,” Aedy said. “We can standardize those so quickly, where the government just can't catch up that quickly.”

You can find more tips on boating safety here.

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