The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking authority from Congress that could someday lead to a national standard on boating education.
The Coast Guard's Office of Boating Safety submitted a legislative proposal as part of the Coast Guard's authorization bill for fiscal 2007. The proposal would amend a section of the United States Code to give the Secretary of Transportation the authority to establish "minimum requirements for recreational vessel operator proficiency."
This provision would allow the Coast Guard to issue regulations that adopt and enforce existing state standard, and apply a federal standard where no state standard exists. Currently, 44 of 56 states and territories already have some level of operator proficiency standards.
"This is several years down the road," says Jeanne Timmons, chief of the program management division for the Office of Boating Safety. "All this does is give us the authority to establish regulations. The regulatory process can be very slow."
She says the process, which includes public hearings, can take up to three or four years.
Both the National Boating Safety Advisory Council and the Towing Safety Advisory Committee have adopted resolutions urging the Coast Guard to seek statutory authority that would require boaters to have a certificate of proficiency. This provision also is consistent with the National Transportation Safety Board recommendation that states be required to enhance recreational boating safety through mandatory education programs.