FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 11, 2011
SCHUMER, BOATERS CALL ON COAST GUARD TO IMPROVE BOATER SCREENING METHODS ON THE HUDSON TO PREVENT REPEATED & UNNECESSARY BOATER STOPPAGES – PUSH FOR BETTER COORDINATION BETWEEN FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT TO BOOST SECURITY, LET BOATERS ENJOY THE WATER
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer gathered with local Hudson River recreational boaters and announced his push to improve coordination between the Coast Guard and various state and federal agencies with overlapping jurisdiction on the Hudson. After a number of media reports this summer have documented the lack of coordination between agencies that can result in the same boat being stopped multiple times a day, Schumer is pressing the Coast Guard to take a lead role in improving coordination between patrolling agencies. Schumer’s call also follows July’s deadly boating accident on the Hudson in which four people were killed.
Rather than stopping the same boats over and over again while potentially missing dangerous vessels that threaten other boaters or national security assets like nuclear power plants or bridges, Schumer believes that these agencies should work together to devise a system that keeps better track of which boats have been previously screened. Boating advocates from throughout the Hudson Valley discussed possible plans to resurrect a voluntary screening system that allows boats to receive a sticker, visible to any patrolling agents, at the beginning of each season signifying that their boat complies with all standard safety requirements.
“Rather than screen one boat six times, we should screen six boats one time. By streamlining our inspection process, we can provide a better experience for recreational boats and free up security resources to protect nuclear power plants and bridges, and ensure that the river is safe,” said Schumer. “Responsible recreational boaters should be free to enjoy the Hudson River without being stopped over and over again. We need the Coast Guard to take the lead and work with state and local authorities to come up with a system that protects our security without choking off all the fun of boating on the river. It’s not just a matter of summertime fun, but of protecting an industry that is critical to the Hudson Valley economy.”
Schumer was joined by area boaters, the Presidents of the Hudson River Boat and Yacht Club Association, Gabe Capobianchi, President of the Hudson Valley Marine Trades Association, Lex Filipowski, founder of Freedom To Go Boating, John Vargo, Editor of Boating on the Hudson Magazine, Mahopac Marina Owner Charlie Melchner and Scott Croft of the Boat Owners Association of the United States, the Marine Division of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and members of the Cold Spring Boat Club.
“The quality-of-life issues surrounding boating our important to me as a business owner and recreational boater and I applaud Senator Schumer for calling for action – boating isn’t only fun, its jobs, business and investment in our communities,” said Mahopac Marina Owner Charlie Melchner. “By people using their boats in the Hudson Valley lakes and rivers, it keeps people employed, keeps products flowing to customers and increases the demand for services from hundreds of small businesses throughout the region. Ensuring customers and their families enjoy their time on our waters and experience a hassle free day of boating means repeat tourists and customers spending more time and more money in the Hudson Valley. This all leads to more jobs and economic development in the many towns enjoying water access – and every single customer is important in these trying economic times.”
“Boaters are discouraged from using their boats because of the police intrusiveness, people have sold their boats because of it and there is a negative economic impact on the businesses all along the Hudson River who rely on an active and thriving boating community,” said Freedom to go Boating founder Lex Filipowski. “I support both safety and security of our nation’s waterways but we need to create a sensible solution that balances safety and security, as well as assures our continued freedoms. It's taken 5 years, but thanks to Senator Schumer we finally have a solid direction to stop the abuses that have been occurring on the Hudson River, as well as on other waterways throughout our great country.”
Today, boating advocates from throughout the Hudson Valley proposed expanding an existing inspection system in order to reduce the number of stoppages of Hudson Valley boaters. The Coast Guard Auxillary unit currently offers annual inspections that determine basic safety of boats. If a boat is deemed safe to use, based on the security of the hull, sufficient number of life guards, and other inspection points, the boat receives a sticker for that year in the same way that an annual car that has been inspected receives their sticker. However, not all of the nearly two dozen agencies with jurisdiction over the Hudson choose to recognize that sticker as evidence that the boat is safe. If entities with authority over the Hudson River including state agencies and local sheriffs’ departments recognized the stickers, it could significantly reduce the number of unnecessary stoppages. Law enforcement would, of course still be permitted to stop boats without inspection stickers or those boats with stickers who were behaving dangerously, but the stickers could serve as a signal that a boat was structurally safe.
“I strongly encourage every agency with authority over the Hudson to discuss this proposal with the Coast Guard,” continued Schumer. “This is exactly the kind of system we need: one in which all of the law enforcement agencies are communicating with each other so that we avoid overlap and unnecessary stoppages, and allow law enforcement to focus on real security risks.
Schumer has sent a personal letter to Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert J. Papp after a series of media reports documented concerns over coordination between federal agencies, which has resulted in recreational boaters being stopped multiple times by different agencies on the same day. According to the New York Times, approximately two dozen agencies have jurisdictional responsibility over boating on the Hudson River, including local sheriffs’ departments, state agencies, and the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard already uses a PDA system that links up various patrolling boats so that officers know which boats have been screened and cleared, and those that have not. However, state and local agencies do not have a system by which they can keep easy tabs on which boats have been screened, and there appears to be insufficient information sharing between all three levels of local law enforcement. The annual inspection sticker system could potentially fill that void. Schumer noted that not only will the use of a widely recognized inspection sticker minimize hassle for boaters, but would free up law enforcement officials, and allow their positive influence to be spread more widely throughout the community
Sincerely, Charles E. Schumer
Charles E. Schumer