MR. THOMPSON: Well, good afternoon, distinguished members of the board, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Ted Thompson. I'm the executive vice president of the International Council of Cruise Lines. Sorry.
I've been specifically asked about my background, so let me tell you just a brief bit about myself. I spent 31 years in the United States Coast Guard after graduation from the Academy, after four years of education.
I spent the next five years at sea and then a shipyard in shipbuilding and ship repair. I then underwent two years of advanced training in naval architecture and marine engineering, receiving my master's degree from the University of Michigan. I then spent the next 20 years of my Coast Guard career in marine safety, environmental protection and security.
During that time, I did just about everything you can think of in terms of investigating accidents to designing and approving the building of ships, inspecting the building of ships, investigating accidents, and spent a lot of time representing the United States in the international arena in the development of safety regulations.
So, having said that, let me say that the International Council of Cruise Lines is an industry trade association that represents the interests of 16 of the world's largest cruise lines.
ICCL members operate more than 115 cruise ships in both the United States and overseas and, in 2004 alone, carried in excess of 9.5 million guests to over 70 ports in the United States and over 600 ports around the world.
Now it's been said that the larger ships can provide more accessibility than the smaller ships, and that's true. ICCL members are dedicated to providing an enjoyable vacation experience for all of our guests. We believe that this industry has made great strides, great strides, in providing accessibility onboard cruise ships and that the design for accessibility is continually improving.
As an organization, ICCL was a member of the Federal Passenger Vessel Access Advisory Committee, the PVAAC, and participated fully in each and every meeting of that committee. We also provided an opportunity for the committee members and the Access Board members to board and tour cruise ships for them to experience firsthand large cruise ship designs and issues impacting accessibility.
Now, having said that, while we appreciate this opportunity to make a statement on behalf of the cruise industry at this hearing, we consider that the timing of the hearing and the deadlines for comments is inadequate, if not inappropriate, for reviewing this extensive draft guideline and the advance notice of proposed rulemaking. We say this in light of several things.
First of all, you realize that this hearing was scheduled just seven weeks after the draft guidelines and accompanying information were published in the Federal Register and subsequently published in the Access Board website. The intervening period, as you know, has also included major holidays.
We also say this in light of the complexity of the myriad of issues. In fact, the Access Board asked questions and / or requested comment on approximately 150 items and subitems in the various documents that were published. The drafters clearly state that the recommendations of the PVAAC were not followed in many instances, and this will necessitate a detailed review of the committee recommendations and the discussions that led to those recommendations in order to complete full and meaningful comment.
We also note that many of the PVAAC recommendations and draft guideline elements are based on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for land-based facilities, the ADAAG, standards for accessible design. Those revised guidelines, the ADAAG-R, are still in the rulemaking process by the Departments of Justice and Transportation and are not yet enforceable requirements.
Accordingly, it's possible that, upon review of the final regulations, this may yield additional comments that impact these guidelines that we're discussing here today.
And, as you are aware, on February 28 of this year, the Supreme Court of the United States will be hearing a case on the applicability of U.S. accessibility rules to non-U.S. flag passenger ships. A decision in this regard is expected before the Court adjourns on June 30. We believe that the decision in this case will impact significantly, significantly many of the elements of this proposal.
Accordingly, we have not had the time to thoroughly review, understand, and evaluate the draft guidelines and the associated documents in order to prepare detailed comments.
Be that as it may, we've noted several matters which we believe are significant and we note here as examples of our concern. We believe that the proposed guidelines reflect a significant lack of understanding and appreciation of those elements that drive ship design and construction.
As it was said before, and I was heard to say on occasion, at least, at the Passenger Vessel Access committee meetings, ships are not buildings. Shoreside design and construction concepts and constraints or lack of those constraints cannot automatically be transferred to ship design and construction.
Secondly, the internal arrangement of a passenger ship is governed by the physical limitations of its structure. Dimensions such as length and breadth are often limited by port facilities or restrictions such as the Panama Canal. Subdivision within the hull is dictated by main transverse bulkheads for damage stability or the length of fire zones specified by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, SOLAS. Continuity of steel decks and bulkheads are to be maintained to provide hull strength and structural fire protection.
All the main elements of ship design and construction are influenced by maritime rules and safety requirements, such as SOLAS, which dates back to 1917 and the SS Titanic disaster. It is signed by every maritime nation in the world, including the United States, and is incorporated into the domestic laws in ports throughout the world where cruise ships operate.
These standards, such as SOLAS, the Load Lines Convention, and others, have been crafted for maritime incidents that are intended to prevent the loss of life or personal injury and should not be arbitrarily bypassed.
We cite examples such as the need to maintain a coaming or sill in the way of weathertight or watertight doors, travel guides that are required for the closure of sliding fire doors, and the camber on upper decks to facilitate drainage. It is ill advised to substitute marine regulations with standards written for shoreside buildings.
The marine environment in which a ship operates, i.e., floating, must also be taken into account when establishing usable requirements, and I emphasize "usable." Ship motions, such as heave, roll, pitch, surge, sway, and yaw, extreme tidal fluctuations and tendering arrangements are all issues that cannot be resolved by simple solutions or purportedly simple solutions or requirements, as indicated in some of the draft guidelines.
Therefore, the well recognized issue relating to on / off accessibility at widely varying and dispersed ports and terminals and facilities must be properly considered. This is a tough nut to crack. It's one of the issues that the guidelines dwell on, and it's one of the most common issues that the Board asks for input on.
The specification of U.S. engineering standards versus other engineering standards used in the shipyards and countries where cruise ships are designed and built and where the majority of onboard equipment is constructed is viewed as being significant.
Foreign countries' shipyards and certifying governments, manufacturers, et cetera, may not recognize or even accept U.S. engineering standards over their own. Certainly, the U.S. accepts non-U.S. engineering standards in U.S. construction or U.S. flagships only on a case-by-case basis.
The use of the term "administrative authority" as apparently referring to the United States Coast Guard or other authority, such as the Department of Justice or Access Board, is problematic in light of the intent to apply these draft guidelines to non-U.S. vessels registered in other countries.
In discussion with the Access Board staff to clarify a technical detail, it was stated that the issue would need to be submitted to the Justice Department, as is standard procedure for land-based facilities.
One simply cannot design and build a ship having to submit every conflict or apparent conflict to the U.S. Justice Department or other U.S. administrative authority for resolution. It just can't be done.
This discussion begs the question as to what happens if the U.S. adjudication of an issue is in conflict with the decision of the administrative authority of the country where the ship is built or flagged.
After the detailed discussions during the PVAAC meetings and the amount of time given to this issue, we are taken aback -- that's a nautical term, "taken aback" -- by the decision to disregard significant concerns and recommendations of that committee.
We do not understand why the Board, which appears to have little or no ship design construction operation or shipboard access experience, sought appropriate expertise in creating the PVAAC but has apparently chosen to ignore many of the conclusions of its own committee.
From these brief comments, it is apparent why ICCL believes that there is a need not only for one or more additional hearings but also a need for an extension to the deadline for comments to the docket in these matters. Given the six to seven years that this exceedingly complex issue has been under discussion and consideration, ICCL wishes to express our disappointment in the product versus the time permitted for comment.
I thank you for this opportunity, and I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
MR. [GARY] TALBOT [BOARD MEMBER]: Madam Chair? I'm sorry.
MS. [JAN] TUCK [BOARD CHAIR]: J.R., and then Gary, and then Pam.
MR. [J.R.] HARDING [BOARD MEMBER]: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ted, thank you. I would agree that blanket just taking the ADAAG and applying it to a big boat doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Specifically, within it, I mean, you made some vague references to the slope of the deck, perhaps number of doors and so forth. Do you have any immediate suggestions besides the biggest one of getting us off and on the boat?
MR. THOMPSON: There were a number of issues, and we quite literally were at a loss to really look at and understand the impact of each. Now, of course, the Board did take a number of the suggestions of the PVAAC, as well as they readily admit they did not accept a number of the suggestions.
I would give, for example, there's one area that talks about the sills and coamings of doors, where it appears that the draft guidelines accept the fact that you need weathertight doors with sills and coamings but appear to say that, if you desire or decide to put in a watertight door in lieu of that, that you do not need the sills and coamings. Now, based on my quick review so far, it's issues like that that we're finding problematic and difficult.
There's another issue that had to do with elevators, and the guidelines talk about the 15 inches in the casing that was particularly of issue with ferry boats. And that was an issue of considerable discussion, explanation, and justification at the PVAAC, and yet it's dismissed without too much comment.
MS. TUCK: Ted, if I can interrupt for just one minute. If you're asking for an extension of the comment period, do you have a specific timeframe in mind?
MR. THOMPSON: We talked about that, and no, we don't really. We've just barely had time to be able to review it and start digesting what some of the issues are that we think are going to be of issue aboard our ships. And when you look at the some 150 questions and elements that have been asked for comment, we haven't even started looking at how to answer those.
MS. TUCK: Okay. I wonder if, being accountable to time, if we could table this until the end, until everybody has had an opportunity to present.
And then, Gary, if you and Pam could hold your questions until -- we've got somebody on the phone and if we can ask you to come back when we're finished.
MR. THOMPSON: I'd be happy to stay as long as you would like.
MS. TUCK: Great.
MR. THOMPSON: I also have a version of this statement I would give to you, Madam Chairman, for the record.
MS. TUCK: Okay. Great.
[At end of hearing]
MS. TUCK: Now we had tabled on two questions. Pam, you had a question for Ted?
MS. [PAMELA] DORWARTH [BOARD MEMBER]: You mentioned about SOLAS dictating fire codes and rates, correct?
MR. THOMPSON: Yes. Yes.
MS. DORWARTH: Did we address any of those issues in our -- that would conflict, in other words, with the --
MR. THOMPSON: There are issues addressed in the guidelines that discuss the international requirements and SOLAS' hand in the loadline regulations. In particular, for the fire protection requirements, I did not notice a specific conflict, but, again, we have not been able to get into it in exact detail. There is a reference to an NFPA standard that may or may not conflict. I'm not familiar with that standard. We will have to get that out and take a look at it specifically.
And that is why we feel we need additional time to do this --
MS. DORWARTH: I agree.
MR. THOMPSON: -- because it will take some detailed review. And we do plan to submit additional written comments, detailed comments.
MS. DORWARTH: Were there other organizations here that were on the committees that also come under the regulations of SOLAS that dictate for our --
MR. THOMPSON: I know --
MS. DORWARTH: See, I wasn't involved, so that's why I'm asking.
MR. THOMPSON: Right. Right. There are a number of new board members. We discussed the SOLAS regulations in particular, as well as the Coast Guard regulations, and that had to do with the protected area. What did we call that?
MS. TUCK: Area of safety.
MR. THOMPSON: The area of safety. And if you look at the guidelines, it states that, if a vessel meets the SOLAS requirements for the sprinklers and smoke detectors and what not, that that's considered an equivalent. And I think that that will handle it, at least for our ships, but we need to look at that very closely, like I said, in addition to looking at that NFPA rule.
MS. DORWARTH: Okay. Thank you.
MS. TUCK: And then, Gary, you had a question?
MR. TALBOT: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ted, just a quick question, and you may have already answered this, but I was just -- I was interested in what your take would be on the recommendations that the PVAAC came up with and how the guidelines are different than what your recommendations were.
I'm a relatively new Board member, so it would be helpful for me if you could give me just a couple of -- or give us a couple of examples of areas where the draft guidelines differ from what the Passenger Vessel Advisory Committee came up with as far as recommendations would go.
MR. THOMPSON: One of the recommendations that jumped right out at us had to do with the elevator car size and the width of the elevator cars. The Passenger Vessel Access Advisory Committee addressed that in quite a bit of detail, and Mr. Waterhouse addressed the issues that have to do with making an elevator wider or changing it out or the design of the elevator and how that impacts the vessel. And that certainly impacts the design of a new vessel as well as an existing vessel.
MR. TALBOT: Thank you.
MS. TUCK: And then Ken had a question, if you don't mind.
MR. THOMPSON: All right.
MR. [KENNETH] SCHOONOVER [BOARD MEMBER]: Yeah. Thank you. Ken Schoonover. Mr. Thompson, I appreciate your input and your time. It's definitely helpful. I'm not sure I understood one of your points that you made before, and I want to ask you a question about that so that I can understand what you meant by that, and it has to do with the -- you know, the case that the Supreme Court is adjudicating.
You said that the outcome of that might determine or affect the content of our guidelines. The proposed guidelines are a set of technical criteria for the layout arrangement and accessibility of vessels. How might that case and the outcome of that case affect the content of the guidelines? I'm not sure I understood what you meant by that.
MR. THOMPSON: We've discussed that somewhat, and let me assure you or tell you that I'm not an attorney. My understanding is that the Supreme Court has a number of different ways in which it can rule regarding the case before it. And, depending on how they rule, it could impact the elements, certainly, that are impacting our ship and may cause the Board to want to go back and relook at those. I don't have any specific examples, I'm sorry.
MR. SCHOONOVER: Yes. Thank you. I was just going to ask you if you did because --
MR. THOMPSON: No.
MR. SCHOONOVER: -- that's what might help me understand a little better what that impact that you're perceiving might be. Okay. Thank you.
MR. THOMPSON: No, I'm sorry. I can't.
MS. TUCK: Jim Elekes?
MR.[JIM] ELEKES [BOARD MEMBER]: Jim Elekes, public member. Is it the intent of your organization to file with the Supreme Court an amicus curiae friend of the court brief on that case?
MR. THOMPSON: Yes, we are preparing one, and we have indicated to the Court that we would do that.
MR. ELEKES: Thank you.
MS. TUCK: Anyone else?
MR. THOMPSON: Thank you. Again, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to testify before you all. It was a great honor to serve on the PVAAC, and this is kind of like a minireunion for many of those members that I haven't talked to in a number of years, and it's good to see them again.
Thank you very much.
MS. TUCK: Okay. Two other points that have come up. One is that there is obviously a request for an extension of time, and that will be taken under consideration, and you can -- we'll let you know about that.
And then also the request for additional hearings, I'm relatively confident that there will be more hearings. As to where and when, you'll be advised of that.
And then Ken asked for just a moment of your time, if we can indulge you. I want to be accountable. I know we've run a little over, but he would just like to have a few minutes of your time if he could.
MR. SCHOONOVER: Actually, less than that. Thank you. Ken Schoonover. I just wanted to make a comment about a couple of -- an issue that we've heard from several people about the inappropriateness or the concerns that people have about our having used the land-based criteria as our starting point, using ADAAG building criteria, you know, as a starting point for our proposed guidelines.
And what I want to say is I still feel that that was a good approach. And I hope, rather than condemning us for doing that, please help us understand where we may have, in using that criteria, you know, created a problem. Or, where one of those criteria, in fact, is a problem, help us understand that.
As a group, believe me, we did understand and consider that there are differences between vessels and buildings. We were keenly aware of that, and we made, I think, great attempts to identify where the two criteria don't match and where some consideration has to be given to how that appropriately applies to vessels.
I still think that was a good approach, and I would encourage you to help us understand if there still are some difficulties in the draft guidelines on that point. Help us understand what they are and how we might be able to fix them. Thank you.