In the wake of the deadly 2019 fire aboard the liveaboard dive boat Conception off the coast of California, the US Coast Guard has finally published new rules to help prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again.
According to a recent notice in the Federal Register:
“This interim rule adds additional fire safety requirements for small passenger vessels, including fire detection and suppression systems, avenues of escape, egress drills, crew firefighting training, watchmen monitoring devices, and the handling of flammable items such as rechargeable batteries.”
The rule will go into effect on March 18, 2022, the notice states.
The fire that claimed the lives of 34 people aboard the Conception spawned a US federal government safety investigation, the preliminary report of which was released in the weeks after the tragedy.
The 75-foot (23-meter) Conception, with 33 passengers and six crew aboard, was anchored in Platts Harbor, off Santa Cruz Island, when it caught fire in the early morning of Sept. 2, 2019. All 33 passengers and one crewmember died of smoke inhalation after they were trapped in the berthing area while a fire raged on the deck above.
The NTSB called for all vessels similar to the Conception with overnight accommodations to be required to have interconnected smoke detectors in all passenger areas. It also recommended that a secondary means of escape lead into a different space than the primary exit, in case a single fire blocks both escape paths.
The US Congress the following year passed legislation directing the head of the Department of Homeland Security “to prescribe fire safety regulations for certain “covered small passenger vessels, defined as small passenger vessels (SPVs) with overnight accommodations for passengers or operating on Oceans or Coastwise routes, excluding fishing vessels and ferries,” according to the Federal Register notice.