Fatter Passengers Mean Change in Boat Rules

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Fatter passengers are the cause of a rules change by the U.S. Coast Guard that will impact tour boats, ferries and water taxis.

The Coast Guard is adjusting occupancy regulations to reflect the fact Americans weigh more than they did in the in the 1960s, when earlier rules were set. The standard weight per passenger for American-flagged boats will be calculated at 185 pounds rather than 160 pounds, beginning Dec. 1.

"Over the decades people have gotten bigger and they weigh more according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so the Coast Guard regulations were adjusted to reflect that," Coast Guard spokeswoman Lisa Novak tells AOL Travel News.

With passengers tipping the scale, the new rule will mean boats have to carry fewer people.

The concern is stability of a vessel, and what might happen if heavy passengers all moved to one side, a Coast Guard official tells the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

It was unclear whether in addition to smaller passenger boats the rules change also applies to Norwegian Cruise Line's American-flagged cruise ship Pride of America, which cruises in Hawaii – AOL has a request out to NCL for comment.

The rules change does not apply to recreational boaters. It also does not apply to cruise ship lifeboats, which are covered under a separate set of regulations, Novak says.

Tour boat operators say the change will impact business.

"If you're licensed for 400 people ... with the new rating you may only carry 370," Haley Sofge, a manager with Biscayne Lady Charters, which operates out of West Palm Beach and Miami, tells the Sun-Sentinel.

Another Florida tour boat owner says to make up for fewer passengers operators may have to charge guests more.

In calculating the new weight regulations the Coast Guard went with averages for men and women from the CDC's National Center of Health Statistics, Novak says.

According to the CDC, for people over age 20, the average weight for men is 194.7 pounds and for women 164.7 pounds.

Similar weight changes have been considered for city transit buses. In response to the increasing girth of Americans, the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) last month proposed raising the assumed average weight per bus passenger from 150 pounds to 175 pounds, a move that could mean fewer seats on buses across the country.

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