The National Transportation Safety Board
today issued two recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard
regarding the use of cell phones and similar wireless
devices aboard seafaring vessels. They suggest the development of national polices for Coast Guard vessels and maritime advisories.
Currently, the NTSB is investigating two marine accidents
where crewmembers on Coast Guard patrol boats involved in
collisions had been using cellular telephones while underway
to engage in text-messaging activities or conversations that
were unrelated to vessel operations or the mission at hand. In one case a child died and passengers were injured.
The Coast Guard recently issued its preliminary national
policy concerning cell phone usage on their vessels while
underway. Therefore, the Safety Board made the following
recommendation to the Coast Guard:
Develop and implement national and local policies that address the
use of cellular telephones and other wireless devices aboard U.S.
Coast Guard vessels.
The risk associated with distractions from using wireless
devices while operating a motor vehicle are well known, and
the Safety Board believes that the boating public and
commercial marine industry should be reminded that similar
risks may exist on the water. Although not related to
ongoing investigations, the Safety Board has made the
following recommendation to the Coast Guard:
Issue a safety advisory to the maritime industry that (1) promotes
awareness of the risk posed by the use of cellular telephones and
other wireless devices while operating vessels and (2) encourage the
voluntary development of operational policies to address the risk.
"The use of wireless communications devices while operating
vehicles in any mode of transportation poses an unacceptable
distraction," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said. "State governments and federal regulators have been acting
to combat these safety hazards and we urge the Coast Guard
to do the same."
The NTSB has not yet determined the probable causes of the
following ongoing investigations, but the Board has
confirmed that cellular telephones and similar electronic
devices were being used while Coast Guard crewmembers were
engaged in vessel operations:
On December 5, 2009, in the harbor of Charleston, South
Carolina, a Coast Guard shore-based response vessel collided
with the small passenger vessel Thriller 09. Five of the 22
passengers aboard the Thriller were injured and treated at a
local hospital. A sixth passenger self-reported to an
emergency room for treatment.
Fifteen days later, on December 20, 2009, in the harbor of
San Diego, California, a Coast Guard shore-based response
vessel, carrying five crewmembers, collided with a 24-foot
recreational vessel with 13 persons aboard. As a result of
the accident, one child died and four passengers on the
recreational vessel were seriously injured.
"Accidents caused by distractions from wireless devices must
cease," Hersman said. "Lives are being unnecessarily put at
risk and lost."
The Safety Board's recommendation letter may be accessed at
the following link: http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2010/M-10-002-003.pdf