December 25, 2011
Obesity Leads To Fewer Passengers On U.S. Ferries
The U.S. obesity epidemic has forced the Coast Guard to increase the estimated average weight of adult passengers, meaning that fewer passengers will be allowed onboard ferries and similar crafts at any given time, various media outlets reported last week.
According to the Associated Press (AP), the new Coast Guard stability regulations that went into effect on December 1 increased the estimated weight of adult passengers from 160 pounds to 185 pounds.Those figures are based on population data originating from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who claim on their website that there has been a dramatic increase in obesity among Americans over the past two decades, and that nearly one-third of them fit the criteria.
The Washington state ferry system is one of those who will be most affected by the new rules, according the AP. On Wednesday, Coast Guard Lt. Eric Young told the wire service that the ferry service has been forced to reduce the amount of passengers permitted to board their vessels at one time "by about 250 passengers or so the particular ferry“¦ They generally carry about 2,000, so it's down to 1,750 now."
"It's about safety," Coast Guard Lt. Kirk Beckman added in an interview with Theron Zahn of KOMO-TV on Tuesday. "We don't want to have vessels that are overloaded and cause a vessel to capsize or anything."
The Washington state ferry service is the largest in the U.S., operating 23 vessels on 10 routes and carrying over 22 million people across Puget Sound and through the San Juan Islands to British Columbia, spokeswoman Marta Coursey told the AP. The potential loss in passengers has led to some speculation that ferry rates could increase to make up for lost revenue.
However, ferry systems such as the one in Washington won't be the only maritime vessels effected by the new regulations, according to the AP.
"The new stability rules may have a bigger impact on the smaller charter fishing boats, such as those that take anglers fishing out of the Pacific Ocean ports of Westport and Ilwaco," the AP reported, citing Young as the source of the information. "Any vessel that carries more than six paying customers has to be inspected and certified by the Coast Guard as a passenger vessel."
However, Zahn says, since boats typically do not reach full capacity, Coast Guard officials believe that the new ratings will not have a major impact on passengers. However, Beckman told KOTO-TV that it was a "safety" issue, adding, "We don't want to have vessels that are overloaded and cause a vessel to capsize or anything."
According to the CDC website, in 2010, no U.S. state had an obesity prevalence rate under 20%, and 36 of them topped 25%. Furthermore, they report that a dozen states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia -- had a prevalence rate of at least of 30%.
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