The National Transportation Safety Board has released Its 2010 Most Wanted List of Federal Safety Improvements. Maritime lawyers will be pleased to know that marine safety finds a special mention on the NTSB list.

The agency has outlined two recommendations for the US Coast Guard with respect to marine safety. The first recommendation has to do with Safety Management Systems (SMS) for domestic vessels. The NTSB is recommending that operators of domestic vessels develop and implement Safety Management Systems to minimize the risks of accidents. This has not featured in earlier NTSB wish lists.

According to the NTSB, the lack of Safety Management Systems on domestic vessels has been a major concern for the agency. The US Coast Guard says it plans to require Safety Management Systems on domestic passenger vessels carrying more than 399 passengers. But the NTSB is not impressed. It wants SMS to be available on all domestic vessels.

The second recommendation has to do with minimizing crew fatigue as a factor in maritime accidents. The federal agency is recommending that the US Coast Guard set strict work hour limits for maritime workers in the same manner that commercial motor vehicle drivers have.

Both the recommendations have a color code of red, which means that they are extremely urgent, and very little progress has been made towards implementing them.

While the NTSB means well, federal safety agencies have not exactly been enthusiastic about implementing the recommendations the agency makes. Just about every federal safety agency charged with ensuring safety of Americans, like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration, has been extremely slow to take up the recommendations that the NTSB makes, and work on these. A case in point – NTSB recommendations for seatbelts on motor coaches go back decades to the sixties. It’s the year 2010.  We still don’t have mandatory seatbelts on buses.

Update 9/18: To see the NTSB recommendations for 2018, visit: https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/mwl/Pages/default.aspx