Schumer Demands Reduction in Unnecessary Boat Stops And Universal Inspection Sticker System

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 26, 2012

 

SCHUMER: TO REDUCE REDUNDANT AND MADDENING BOATING STOPPAGES, COAST GUARD MUST IMMEDIATELY IMPLEMENT UNIVERSAL STICKER SYSTEM FOR BOATING INSPECTIONS

 

During Mid-Summer Boating Season, Schumer Pushes CG to End Delays and Establish Clear Guidelines for County Police & Local Agencies to Get On Board with Universal Sticker

Schumer Has Long Pushed for Universal Sticker System In an Effort to End Redundant Boat Stoppages on the Hudson River – Coast Guard Has Guidelines For Universal Inspection System in Place, Now Is Time To Implement Universal System

Schumer: Coast Guard Must Get All Hands On Deck to Increase Safety and Ensure Boats Aren’t Needlessly Screened Multiple Times

 

 

 

 

 

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the U.S. Coast Guard to end delays in the implementation of a universal inspection sticker that would better coordinate boater patrols on the Hudson, so that boaters are not repeatedly stopped.

 

 

 

Halfway through the boating season, Schumer highlighted that while the Coast Guard has the guidelines in place for a universal inspection system, it has yet to ask or allow Hudson Valley law enforcement to sign onto those procedures and make it truly universal. Schumer urged the Coast Guard to communicate a clear framework and guidelines for local law enforcement and boating officials in Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Ulster, and Dutchess County to sign on to the universal sticker system before the summer boating season ends. Schumer noted that in other states local law enforcement has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and indicated this could be the way forward in New York, too, but guidance and advice on this process must to be issued immediately.

 

 

 

At Schumer’s urging in February, the Coast Guard met with Hudson Valley officials to discuss the details of a new inspection process. In fact, the Coast Guard has pre-existing procedures to allow such a universal inspection plan, but is not fully implementing this system – nor is it providing a simple and clear process for the overlapping state and local law enforcement entities to adopt this procedure as a universal protocol for boating stoppages.

 

 

 

Schumer is urging the Coast Guard to act now to fully implement this procedure within its agency, and to establish a formal agreement with state and local entities to do the same.

 

 

 

“The boating season is in full swing and the Coast Guard must waste no time to work hand-in-glove with state and local law enforcement agencies and put into place a universally recognized sticker system and establish the best protocol for ensuring the safety of boaters and our critical infrastructure, while allowing for recreational enjoyment of the Hudson River for both residents and tourists,” said Schumer.

 

 

 

“The time for the Coast Guard to implement a truly universal sticker system in the Hudson Valley is now,” he continued. “The power to do so in their hands so the Coast Guard should end delays and fully establish an inspection system so six boats are stopped one time, not one boat getting stopped six times. The Coast Guard must communicate straightforward guidelines for the dozen boating agencies and law enforcement officials in the Hudson Valley who can immediately use the universal boat sticker. Sherriff, county and parks officials simply need the Coast Guard to tell them how to get on board. A more efficient system for boat stoppages on the Hudson will afford local law enforcement more of their resources to ensure the safety of boater, and make for a much more enjoyable experience for families and fishermen on the river.”

 

 

 

Boaters have loudly complained of an overlap in boater screening that results in the same boat being stopped multiple times a day. At the same time, there have been numerous deadly boating accidents across New York State this summer that demonstrate a need for a more coordinated safety inspection plans. Rather than stopping the same boats over and over again, while potentially missing dangerous vessels, Schumer has long believed that the agencies should work together to devise a system that keeps better track of which boats have already been checked that day. Law enforcement is doing all that they can to patrol the thousands of boaters on the river each day, and this sticker system gives them the flexibility to remain vigilant in patrolling the river.

“I hope that all parties will support the statewide efforts by Senator Schumer in regards to the Boaters Safety Inspection Sticker,” said Lex Filipowski, Founder of Freedom To Go Boating. He agrees with the need for a safety inspection sticker to be implemented immediately by all law enforcement agencies. “This will encourage safe boating as well as put an end to boaters being stopped and harassed without probable cause .”

The Coast Guard already uses a PDA-based system to ensure that the various patrol boats know which recreational boaters have already been checked and are not bothered multiple times. The Coast Guard has the capacity and internal framework for such a universal sticker system, but still have not implemented such an inspection plan with local law enforcement. By creating a system that links state, local, and federal agencies together, law enforcement can now avoid wasting resources on rechecking the same boats over and over, while other potentially dangerous behavior goes unnoticed. Creating a truly universal sticker-system that is recognized by all levels of law enforcement has the support of the boating community, and several Hudson Valley law enforcement agencies have expressed openness to participate in the system.

 
Schumer urged the Coast Guard to provide a framework for sheriff, county and local police officials in Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Ulster and Dutchess Counties that have jurisdiction over the Hudson to establish an agreement between Coast Guard Auxiliary and state officials.  The Coast Guard Auxiliary has entered agreements in other states to formalize cooperation between law enforcement agencies in recognizing the Vessel Safety Check Program. In this type of agreement, the Coast Guard Auxiliary would work with local law enforcement agencies to coordinate safety check inspections and the subsequent disbursement of a inspection safety decal. The establishment of a formal agreement would standardize safety inspections and recognition of meeting the necessary safety standards, giving boaters a uniformed process of having their boat inspected and issued an inspection sticker. The MOU would be clear in expressing that the law enforcement agents would not be limit their authority to conduct law enforcement activities but would rather establish a mechanism to recognize boaters have completed a safety inspection and have met the guidelines of having a safe vessel. In states like Michigan and Tennessee, county law enforcement and sheriffs throughout the state have used a state wide model to create a uniform procedure for boaters and law enforcement alike.

 

 

 

“With the Coast Guard and NYS Parks and Recreation working hand in hand, now is the time for local agencies to work together towards a similar formal agreement,” said Schumer.

Schumer has led the charge to implement a universal sticker system since the summer of 2011, when reports documented concerns over a lack of coordination between federal agencies resulting 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 sheriff’s 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 did not previously have a system by which they could keep easy tabs on which boats have been screened, and there appeared to be insufficient information sharing between all three levels of local law enforcement.

Schumer highlighted several local recent deadly boating accidents, on the Hudson River and elsewhere in New York, that provide a stark reminder about the importance of sufficient patrolling of the Hudson River. Schumer believes his plan will improve coordination between local, state, and federal agencies so patrol boats can spend their time checking more boats, ensuring boats are at proper capacity and protecting key national security assets like nuclear power plants. This universal system, organized through the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary , will help improve information sharing so that agencies stop checking the same boat multiple times on the same day, freeing up more time to expand their watch for potentially dangerous behavior. Better information sharing and a system that clearly identifies which boats have been inspected to ensure that they are following all laws will improve boater safety, while also allowing boaters more time to enjoy the river.

 

 

 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter appears below:

 

Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr.
Commandant

Captain Mark Rizzo
Chief Director of Auxiliary

 

US Coast Guard

 

2100 2nd Street, SW

 

Washington, DC 20024

 

 

 

Dear Commandant Papp and Chief Director Rizzo:

 

 

 

I write to request the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary offer clear guidelines and procedures regarding the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between The United States Coast Guard and New York State Parks and Recreation, and work with local law enforcement to expand this MOU to all overlapping local and state law enforcement entities in the Hudson Valley with purview over the Hudson River.

 

 

 

Last year, I brought to your attention a matter of patrolling issues on the Hudson River, specifically the jurisdiction of multiple law enforcement agencies on the river and their interactions with recreational boaters. The lack of coordination and common procedures created a situation whereby many boaters are repetitively stopped by various agencies patrolling the river. These redundant stops are time-consuming, annoying, inefficient and counter-productive.

 

 

 

As you know, there have since been several productive meetings, resulting in increased communication between overlapping patrols, more efficient policing of the Hudson River, and a better relationship between boaters, small business owners, and law enforcement agencies up and down the Hudson Valley. I know the Coast Guard and local law enforcement officials and officers have an important and profound job patrolling and protecting the Hudson River and strongly believe that this inspection decal initiative will go a long way in freeing up officers to protect our vital infrastructure, respond to accidents and subdue criminals using the River for illegal purposes.

 

 

 

I strongly believe that we must have a comprehensive and universal inspection decal system and process throughout the Hudson Valley. To be truly universal, it is necessary to have a clear understanding between not only New York State and The United States Coast Guard, but also the various Law Enforcement Agencies throughout the Hudson Valley. Although the MOU between your agency and NYS is an important first step – I request a similar agreement to be brokered between the Coast Guard and law enforcement agencies of the Hudson Valley and that this decal inspection plan be defined and implemented immediately.

 

 

 

It is my understanding that in several other states, including Michigan and Tennessee, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and county sheriffs entered into a similar agreement as the Coast Guard has with New York State. By advising law enforcement in Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Ulster and Sullivan Counties on how best to achieve this important goal, the Coast Guard can lead the way into making the Hudson River a safe, secure, an enjoyable place for boaters to come and enjoy everything the Hudson Valley has to offer.

 

 

 

In light of the MOU between NYS and The United States Coast Guard – I would ask the Coast Guard to work closely with law enforcement agencies to explain the particular section of the MOU regarding this inspection decal and establish the best protocol for ensuring the safety of boaters and critical infrastructure. Similarly, by having clear guidance on the policy and procedure, along with an expansion of the current MOU to include local law enforcement, we can increase safety while allowing for recreational enjoyment of the Hudson River for not only residents and tourists, but also the officers who patrol the river on a day to day basis.

 

 

 

By communicating straightforward and specific guidelines and a practical way forward to create a more inclusive sticker inspection system, boaters and law enforcement alike will have a clear understanding of how to be in compliance with inspection regulations and safety guidelines. The Coast Guard, or Coast Guard Auxiliary, simply need to inform sheriffs, county and municipal officers on how they can get on board with this MOU and do their part to create a uniform system throughout the Hudson Valley River Region.  As has been done in other states, I would ask the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary to lead the way in championing this clearly effective and efficient inspection and safety policy.

 

 

 

As you know, the Hudson River is an important tourist and recreational destination for all New Yorkers, and I look forward to working with you as we continue to protect our waters while ensuring boaters have the access to safely enjoy the majestic Hudson River.

 

 

 

Thank you for your consideration of this important request. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff at 202-224-6542 if you have any questions or need additional information.

 

 

 

 

 

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http://www.schumer.senate.gov/Newsroom/record.cfm?id=337346