LIMITED PERFORMANCE, BUT TRIED AND TRUE, OR "BEST AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGY"; WHICH WOULD YOU WANT YOUR LIFE TO DEPEND ON?
American Admiralty Books Safety & Privacy Policies EU VISITORS WARNING POSSIBLE COOKIES AHEAD
|U.S.Coast Guard Photo by PO 3 Ali Flockerzi|
The Following is reprinted from the National Mariner's News Letter with Permission. When we last examined this issue the Coast Guard was finding it impossible to approve vastly improved technology for oil recovery. The owner of the company was actor Kevin Costner. Our top maritime analyst, Namazu, found the Coast Guard position in that case indefensible. Now its life saving equipment. We can still see no improvement in the Coast Guard's practices. Why does technological improvement face such an impossible path to approval?
[Source: Paul Driscoll, Retired Coast Guard Master Chief & Member, NMA Board of Directors.]
As retired career rescue professionals aware of the poor state of rescue, response and recovery tools available to the public, my associates and I formed the “Retriever Project” to undertake modern makeovers of many of these outdated basic rescue devices.
From the beginning over a decade ago we ran into a regulatory brick wall. According to what we found in a 1998 American Society of Mechanical Engineering report, we knew we were up against the same barriers that greeted over 100 other small companies. After years of confrontation and struggle, our device was finally granted limited commercial approval. Upon receiving approval other small companies with very impressive lifesaving innovations sought to learn how we'd managed to accomplish that. From those exchanges it was evident that we were all facing an adversarial system and not the partner or advocate the written propaganda asserted would be awaiting those attempting to elevate safety. Many of these small businesses lacked any understanding of statutory enforcement or how to cope with the draconian regulatory procedures they came up against; and lacking the resources larger corporations routinely have access to within the beltway, they could not overcome those barriers and simply gave up.
As retired career rescuers, we were aware that most drowning deaths occurred before professional assistance could arrive on scene and we set out to develop a safer more effective means of response for those lay-persons already on scene who often are not physically conditioned or properly trained to attempt a water rescue. We are aware that U.S. Coast Guard’s own statistics showed the single greatest cause of fatalities among commercial mariners are falls overboard during routine operations and crew transfers that ended in drowning fatalities. We also know that the primary mission of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Directorate is “The Reduction in Loss of Life.” However, this surprising adverse mindset of regulatory officials toward new innovative 21st century technology to replace outdated 19th century technology made no sense to our group. Consequently, we began to question their determinations since our professionals were well aware of the laws, regulations, and enforcement policies involved in light of our backgrounds as career rescuers.
For a number of years we sought to discreetly show regulatory officials, headquarters personnel without extensive rescue experience, that many of their federal requirements for lifesaving equipment, which were cast in legislative concrete 50 to 75 years ago had become outdated and were long overdue for revision.
In response to that effort, in 2009 we received a “Final Office Action Letter” telling us to either comply with existing regulations or desist. After receiving that 2009 letter we gave up trying to get these officials to even acknowledge recent advances and innovations applicable to their official mission of reducing loss of life and began to ask technical questions to determine what alterations we might undertake in order to bring our device into compliance with their requirements. As the written record can show, from 2009 until 2011 their replies were curt, ambiguous and provided us with no actionable information to resolve specific technical questions we needed answered in order to determine how to bring our device into compliance.
It took a strongly worded letter directly from Congressman Darrell E. Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to encourage officials in the Office of Marine Safety to begin providing responsive replies. Since that time we were able to overcome all statutory issues and addressed all but two of the Voluntary Consensus Standard issues they raised and are now down to two minor issues which we believe could already have been resolved with simple tests.
Although each exchange on record would appear reasonable, when we look back over a decade of endless hypothetical questions and consider that not once have they put forth the effort to show a reasoned basis for them, we now appear to be back to endless delays and non-responsive replies. With the government shutdown and all of the obstacles the Coast Guard has thrown in front of us, it is questionable as to whether we will be able to continue as an American business in this unhealthy business environment and make a positive contribution as career rescue professionals.
[NMA Comment: Our Association followed the progress of the “Personal Retriever” lifesaving tool for a number of years. We assert that this device is an effective tool for saving human life, whether it is the life of our merchant mariners, recreational boaters, swimmers, or accidental victims. The “Personal Retriever” is demonstrated to be far more useful as a recovery tool than the ring life buoy required by regulation to be carried on thousands of commercial vessels. We direct our readers to NMA Report #R-354,Rev. 4. An Appeal to the 111th. Congress on Lifesaving Issues that Affect Our Limited Tonnage Mariners.]
[NMA Comment: We will ask Mr. Driscoll to prepare a complete report of his treatment by the Marine Safety Directorate and will publish and distribute that report as part of our “R-354 series when complete.]
Editor's Note: While you're thinking about throwable devices check out this advice from Mario: