SAFETY ALERT: Amphibious passenger vessels

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Coast Guard is disseminating the attached NTSB's Highway Division Safety Alert from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in order to reiterate and raise awareness of important issues related to the operation of amphibious passenger vessels (APVs).

The NTSB safety alert titled "Risk Assessment, Driver Distraction, and Seat Belts in Amphibious Passenger Vehicle Operations" was developed primarily as a result of the NTSB's investigation into the Sept. 24, 2015 highway collision involving an APV, motor coach and several other vehicles that occurred on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle, Wash. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the sudden mechanical failure of an axle housing on the APV that was brought about by inadequate maintenance.  This failure subsequently caused the operator to lose control of the APV, sending it veering across the highway centerline and into oncoming traffic striking a motor coach and several other vehicles. As a result, five motor coach passengers died and 71 motor coach and APV occupants were injured to varying degrees. It also addressed another APV roadway accident involving a motor scooter that killed the operator and injured a passenger.

In its final report, the NTSB made several safety recommendations to industry and regulators including safety recommendation M-16-26 that asks
the U.S. Coast Guard to update policy document Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 1-01 to ensure that:

(1) Amphibious passenger vehicle (APV) operators inform passengers that seat belts must not be worn while the vessel/vehicle is operated in the water; and

(2) Before the APV enters the water or departs the dock, the master or other crewmember visually checks that each passenger has unbuckled his or her seat belt.

Furthermore, the NTSB issued safety recommendation M-16-27 asking the U.S. Coast Guard distribute a safety alert on amphibious passenger vehicle operations that addresses the role of risk assessment to mitigate driver distraction, as well as the need to inform passengers to remove seat belts before waterborne operations begin.

The Coast Guard concurs with these recommendations and is working to update NVIC 1-01 as recommended and fully supports the guidance presented in the attached NTSB Safety Alert. However, it must be stressed that the recommendation for APV passengers to remove their seat belts during water operations only applies to amphibious vehicles. It does not apply to vessels fitted with seat belts when such belts are used to prevent passenger ejection.

Also, please see a previous U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Advisory that focuses upon distracted operations. Distracted operations remains a common casualty causal factor impacting all transportation modes including waterborne craft.

By Professional Mariner Staff