MR. WELLS: Yes, good morning. I am calling with the Marine Association representing the bulk of operators to support offshore. By that I mean the boat that transfers cargo and offshore workers out to oil and gas facilities generally in the Gulf of Mexico.
We appreciate having the opportunity to comment on the accessibility guidelines for large and small vessels, especially in it sounds like you have gone through efforts to set up the phone link through adverse conditions.
We appreciate that. We see this as an important process, see it as one that brings clarity and avoids confusion for vessel owners.
The reason we are commenting is that we are concerned that for our sector, on what the accessibility guidelines are written with some specificity. They may create rather than avoid confusion for a lot of the crew boat operators in our association.
The reason is that at this point that we appreciate there is not really a working guideline for what a passenger would be.
Generally, we think of passengers as people other than the crew of the vessel.
In our case, there is an distinction that needs to be made to the general public. The people that might say have a ticket to ride are those sort of passengers should be we think differentiated from industrial workers other than crew on offshore vessels.
In fact, by law, people who are not crew members on Board these vessels are referred to and classified as industrial workers rather than passengers.
In our case, they the vessels are hired in by offshore employer. The offshore workers are told by their employers to meet the vessel at a certain point of dock and then, they are carried from there out to the offshore rig or platform on a vessel.
They are working for their employee and the vessel is hired by employer, not by the individual workers. So we think there is a distinction that needs to be made there.
In our case, it is such an acute distinction because the offshore presents a number of safety challenges and a number of challenges for employees.
The vessels themselves are built to operate on extremely rough seas and the most extreme example, crew boat carry the offshore workers in the eyes of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.
Not uncommon, just pull up to a platform in a 10 foot sea. And as they move through industrial workers from the vessel to this platform of the rig, under some circumstances, the platform workers will actually swing over, hold on to the outside of a cargo basket, be lifted 100 feet in the air by a crane. There are several concerns.
There are emergency rescue considerations. In other words, there are some job function requirements associated with simply riding a vessel or when someone reaches the rig platform. They will define the population for these sorts of jobs.
Other public general public standard needs to be applied that our vessels should not be included in that standard. As we appreciate it and bear with us because this is not an area the ADA makes allowances for a difference between places, general public and commercial facilities which do not have public accommodations.
If I understand correctly, the ADA says on land at least, a commercial facility that does not cater to the general public would not only fall under the accessibility guidelines.
We think the same standard should be approached to offshore vessel unity and think that through the definition of passenger, perhaps, you should exclude other vessels from the work that you are doing now and would help alleviate a lot of confusion for your industry because frankly, we are not quite sure how the accessibility guidelines would apply our enforcement in our world.
If you should choose not to do that, if you don't choose to define passenger or otherwise, industrial vessel with it, it is very important that you include in that, industrial vessel in your regulatory assessment. One of the measures that you probably need to look at is what happens with vessels that has been built very close to the 100 on the limit if there are a lot of design changes to it.
Basically when someone designs a vessel that is under 100 tons, they will come as close to that limit as possible so they can carry more cargo.
If you start making design changes, potentially, you force it above the 100 on the break point and then, all of a sudden, you're in an entirely different regulatory regime that requires different design structure, different licensing standards, different crew complement and all of this, and increase the cost of that vessel, perhaps in the millions of dollars.
So we think all of that would have to be included in a regulatory assessment, should you decide to find out the differences between the sort of ticket to ride, and general public passengers and people who are classified as industrial workers.
We need to we are not one that fit easily or necessarily under these accessible guidelines and beyond that, would submit further written comments and appreciate having the opportunity to comment this morning.
Thank you and if staff wants to follow up with questions, we will be glad to. Thank you very much.