National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy on Friday praised the House of Representatives for passing a Coast Guard reauthorization bill that includes policies to improve the safety of amphibious vessels known as DUKW boats and holds the Coast Guard accountable to NTSB safety recommendations.

DUKW boats, also known as duck boats, were designed and built in the 1940s for military use during World War II; some were later converted for commercial service. They are unique vessels with special challenges that must be addressed to ensure passenger safety. They require greater stability and reserve buoyancy, canopy and seatbelt removal before waterborne operations and training for crews.

The NTSB first identified these safety issues in 1999 with the sinking of the Miss Majestic in Hot Springs, Arkansas – 21 lives were lost – and recommended corrective actions. They were not acted on and again the NTSB made recommendations following the 2018 sinking of the Stretch Duck 7 in Branson, Missouri – after another 17 lives were needlessly lost.

Homendy testified March 21 before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation on duck boat and other safety issues.

“This is the first meaningful action to improve safety on duck boats in 20 years,” Homendy said. “I especially thank Reps. Peter A. DeFazio, Sam Graves, Salud O. Carbajal, Bob Gibbs, André Carson and Julia Brownley for championing these provisions and their efforts to improve maritime safety for all.”

Further, this legislation, if enacted, would require the Coast Guard to respond to NTSB safety recommendations within 90 days, as is required for agencies within the Department of Transportation (USDOT). When the Coast Guard was transferred from USDOT to the newly established Department of Homeland Security in 2003, it was no longer subject to the requirements. This is an important initial step to ensure the Coast Guard acts on safety recommendations and increases transparency – ensuring that Congress, and the public, are aware of action or inaction.

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