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:
Blue Water Excursions, 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 private family owned company with one 120 passenger vessel constructed in 1994. We offer seasonal sightseeing and private charter of the vessel. Our route is Great Lakes, sailing from the Black River in Port Huron, Michigan. We have 7 full and part time seasonal employees. We carry approximately 20,000 passengers per season. Though we own the vessel, we rent dock space and are not allowed to make major structural changes.
Our dock space is very small and about 10 feet below the level of the sidewalk from which passengers enter. We have replaced the stairway on the dock with a switchback ramp in order to get wheelchairs to the boat. Because of the narrow width of the property, the ramp, though functional, is not able to be ADA width. The side opening of the vessel was built 26 inches wide, which allows only standard width chairs. We have cut another opening to admit wider chairs. The ramp from the dock to the boat can only be about 3 feet. When the boat is loaded or the water is low, there is a steep slope to the boat. Our crew always handles the wheelchairs. Once onboard, the coast guard mandated coamings at the doorways require that crewmembers must lift chairs over them. The rest rooms also have these coamings. We have no elevator to the second deck.
For safety, we try to limit the number of chairs on any one particular voyage. In the event of an emergency, the crew may need to evacuate the cabin. There is simply not room in the main deck muster area for more than a few wheelchairs. In addition, while the crew is assisting the wheelchairs, they would not be dealing with the emergency at hand. Since there is no way to know how many wheelchairs may be on any particular trip, hiring extra crew to manage the wheelchairs is not practical.
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:
Thank you for this opportunity to participate in your rulemaking process.
Capt. John Rigney
Blue Water Excursions, Inc.
3560 Pine Grove Ave. #379
Port Huron, MI 48060