U.S. Coast Guard Issues Guidelines for Passenger Weight Standards

U.S. Coast Guard Issues Guidelines for Passenger Weight Standards

The U.S. Coast Guard issued voluntary guidelines for owners and operators of small passenger vessels to re-evaluate the passenger capacity for their vessels based on an updated average weight allowance of 185 pounds.

The Coast Guard's recommendations stem from studies following a 2004 incident in which an overloaded pontoon vessel capsized in Baltimore Harbor, Md., resulting in several fatalities and injuries. Separate investigations launched by the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that old, assumed weight allowances set in the 1960s were obsolete and compromised the validity of vessel-stability proof tests.

According to the CDC, the average weight of both men and women has increased nearly 25 pounds since the early 1960s when the regulations were established. The assumed passenger weight allowance - currently set at 160 pounds per passenger, or 140 pounds if the vessel is carrying a mix of men, women and children over protected waters - is used to evaluate the stability of small passenger vessels. Overloaded conditions increase a boat's center of gravity and the degree to which a boat heels against the wind, while reducing the distance between the boat deck and the water's surface.