Office of Technical and Information Services
Architectural & Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
Re: ADA Rulemaking for Small Passenger Vessels
Ladies & Gentlemen:
New World Ship Management Co, LLC, 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 your dockets as well as the corresponding US Department of Transportation Docket.
New World Ship Management Co, LLC owns and operates two US-flagged Subchapter K’ vessels, the MV Yorktown Clipper and the MV Nantucket Clipper. We also operate two Bahamian-flagged vessels for their owners, all under the brand-name of Clipper Cruise Line.
The MV Yorktown Clipper carries 138 passengers on overnight coastal cruises. Her itineraries range from SE Alaska, Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay, Baja California, Costa Rica, Panama, and to the Caribbean in the winter months.
The MV Nantucket Clipper, carrying 102 passengers, sails the Great Lakes, Atlantic Canada, the eastern coast of the US from Maine to Florida, and the Caribbean.
Clipper Cruise Line’s itineraries are designed with a strong intellectual content, and always include lecturer/speaker/naturalist staff to enhance the passenger’s enjoyment and understanding of the region they are visiting. The voyages would fall under the category of “adventure” cruising. Many cruises involve anchoring in remote destinations, and tendering the passengers ashore via zodiac. Our ports of call are specifically chosen to avoid the big cruise ship destinations wherever possible.
Each of the vessels calls at an excess of 100 different locations in the course of a year. We own none of those locations, and have no ability to make alterations to the sites. Some of them are undeveloped, and quite a few consist merely of anchorages.
With respect to the draft ideas proposed by the Access Board, we have the following comments:
Elevators and Lifts: We do not agree with the ideas forwarded by the PVA that vessels with 3 or more decks and over 3000 sq ft of deck space can fit elevators. We examined this idea several years ago with an eye to its commercial viability, since most of our passengers are elderly. Examination by naval architects found that the stability and trim of the vessel would be impacted to the point where the vessel would not meet conditions of damage stability as required by SOLAS. Additionally, the cost was astronomical and would have required the loss of three revenue-producing passenger cabins.
Elevators may be possible in small vessels, but only in new-buildings, where the vessel can be designed around the elevator. In our vessels, anyway, it simply cannot be done as a retrofit.
A stairway lift is also not possible, because SOLAS regulates the size of the stairways for escape in the case of emergency, and restrictions are not allowed.
Passenger Boarding: the PVA’s comments here are germane. We visit so many different types of docks, piers and structures, that having the ability to use a handicap accessible gangway at all of them is unrealistic. In Montreal, for example, or Haines, Alaska, the height of the dock at low tide is such that the gangway actually comes down from the dock to the upper deck. In Savannah, Georgia, you can step out on to a floating dock just above the water-line. Up and down the coast we run into dock heights between those two extremes and have to use five different deck levels to board. It is highly impractical that the requirements proposed in the guidelines could be accomplished with the necessary margin of safety.
Existing Vessels: Two ideas are very important for deciding what constitutes the triggering of regulations after “altering” the vessel.
(1) SOLAS presently uses the concept of “major conversion” which means any alteration that substantially changes the length of the ship, or its passenger-carrying capacity. The Access Board should very rigidly define what the word “alter” means, and would be well served to use the same definition as SOLAS. Mere cosmetic refitting of carpets, drapes, etc., should be under no conditions be considered a trigger.
(2) ADA regulations to an existing vessel should not be triggered by alterations forced by compliance with a regulation of some other body, such as SOLAS.
Best Management Practices: New World Ship Management Co, LLC is more than willing to do everything it can to facilitate the passenger with disabilities. In our 26 years of operation, we have always done so. We can assist passengers up and down stairwells, and into zodiacs. We have accommodated blind passengers, assist dogs, and a number of passengers with mobility issues. But we will not be able to retrofit an elevator, nor provide a handicapped-accessible gangway from every deck.
We have met other regulatory challenges by proposing “Best Management Practices” as a viable alternative when faced with requirements for improvements in technology that are simply impossible for us to meet, given the size of our small passenger vessels.
We are suggesting that the industry meet with the ADA and the Access Board, and any other interested stake-holders, and work out Best Management Practices that will provide the greatest possible on-board experience for the disabled passenger, given that the physical changes as proposed will be impossible to retro-fit.
Thank you allowing me the opportunity to comment on the ADA proposals. If I may provide any other information, please contact me as shown below.
Captain Gary E Welsh
Vice President, Marine Operations
New World Ship Management Co, LLC