A.C. Cruise Line, Inc.
290 Northern Avenue, Boston, MA 02210
617-261-6633 or toll free:1-800-422-8419
July 26, 2005
Office of Technical and Information Services
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A.C. Cruise Line, Inc., a member of the Passenger Vessel Association, submits these comments regarding your efforts to develop accessibility guidelines for passenger vessels, as published in the Federal Register of November 26, 2004. Please include these comments in the official record of both of your dockets as well as the corresponding U.S. Department of Transportation Docket.
We are a privately owned company. There are two vessels available for charters. Our crew can be any where from three to nine crewmembers, depending on the type of charter and number of passengers.
The first vessel is the M/V VIRGINIA C II that has a capacity of 215 passengers. She is a two- deck vessel, wood construction. The main salon has seating for 48 passengers.
The M/V CAPE ANN is steel construction and can carry up to 540 passengers. The M/V CAPE ANN is operated all year, as she is heated for the cold months. This vessel has two enclosed salons. The first deck has seating for 102 with room for additional seating. The second deck has fixed seating for 42 passengers. The top deck is entirely open. Both vessels are for charter for Dinner Cruises and Narrated Tours. A.C. Cruise Lines cruises on Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay areas.
We do not own the dock where we are berthed. We are tenants of the City.
Please understand that due to the vessel types, neither of these vessels can be altered to promote accessibility to passengers with disabilities. There is only one entry on each vessel for boarding and un-boarding of passengers. On the VIRGINIA C II there is a step down onto the first deck. The M/V CAPE ANN is wheel chair assessable but without a handicap toilet. Due to the layout of the vessel, there is no means to alter the bathroom to accommodate a handicap toilet.
In order to accommodate wheelchair passengers aboard the M/V CAPE ANN, we have a plate that attaches to the bottom of the gangway. This is the only area that needs adjustment for boarding. The other vessel is not assessable to wheelchairs unless it is a small person that can be carried aboard and the wheelchair carried aboard.
I am aware that the Passenger Vessel Association has been in frequent contact with the Access Board regarding this rulemaking, including testifying at public hearings three times in 2005. I support the following points that PVA has stressed in its comments:
Providing access in marine and aquatic environments is more challenging than doing so at sites on land. Waves, wind, tides, fluctuating river and lake levels, and various types of vessel motions must be contended with. In designing, constructing, and operating a vessel, there is no higher priority than safety.
There is a wide diversity of types, sizes, and functions of passenger vessels in the U.S. domestic passenger vessel fleet. Most vessels to be affected by the Access Board action are not cruise ships.
Designing accessibility into a vessel becomes exponentially more difficult as the size of the vessel decreases. Therefore, it is appropriate to have one set of guidelines for vessels with a capacity of more than 150 passengers, and a different set for vessels with a smaller passenger capacity.
The Access Board should develop its guidelines for vessels with a capacity of more than 150 passengers first, waiting until after this work is complete before further studying and developing guidelines for smaller vessels.
The recommendations of the Passenger Vessel Access Advisory Committee, on which four PVA members participated, are preferable to the proposed guidelines put forth by the Access Board.
Any provision that passenger vessels be required to provide vertical access between decks should be tailored very narrowly to those vessel designs and capacities that are capable of safely and efficiently containing elevators or lifts. In many cases, installing elevators in vessels is technically infeasible, structurally impractical, and potentially unsafe. This is particularly true for small vessels.
This requirement would cause a great hardship on our small company. We hope that the above information will be looked at when you are making your ruling. No existing passenger vessels should be burdened with this obligation to make changes for handicap passengers.
Thank you for this opportunity to participate in your rulemaking process.
Captain Al Circeo, Owner/President