Commercial Vessel Compliance

7/1/2015: Parasail information update

UPDATE: Paragraph three was updated to reflect the last sentence of paragraph three which was update from “A recent Coast Guard review of parasailing marine casualty incidents revealed that there has not been a passenger injury or death due to a parted parasail tow-line since 2013” to remove the word injury and change from 2013 to 2012 as reflected below.

The Coast Guard’s Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis provided an update on Coast Guard oversight of parasailing operations…

Parasailing related casualties rose from 2009 to 2012 and included several highly visible incidents involving passenger fatalities. In response, the Coast Guard used results from the resultant casualty investigations as a means to drive the focus of compliance inspections and voluntary vessel exams on vessels that conduct parasailing excursions. Furthermore, a multifaceted approach to improving safety was launched including the publication of several safety alerts, the creation of parasail industry safety days and the development of non-regulatory parasail operational and equipment standards.

In order to deter unsafe operations, parasailing vessel masters were criminally prosecuted for maritime negligence under the Seaman’s Manslaughter Act. This occurred in 2009 and 2011 after parasail masters involved in fatal accidents were found to have negligently operated their vessels with passengers aloft by failing to check National Weather Service forecasts that predicted thunder storms and strong winds in the operating areas..

The good news is that the parasailing industry’s overall safety record has improved dramatically since 2012. It appears that enforcement efforts, industry outreach and the establishment of voluntary American Society for Testing and Materials, or ASTM, standards have combined to reduce parasailing casualties despite an estimated 150 percent overall increase in parasail operations since 2005. A recent Coast Guard review of parasailing marine casualty incidents revealed that there has not been a passenger death due to a parted parasail tow-line since 2012.

In January 2012, the Coast Guard requested that the Water Sports Industry Association, or WSIA, develop voluntary standards for the parasailing industry using the ASTM standards consensus process. A subcommittee was formally established in the fall of 2012 and ASTM F2399 “Guide for Monitoring Weather Conditions for Safe Parasail Operation” was published in April of 2013 to address the primary contributing factor to the majority of past parasailing related injuries and deaths. A second more comprehensive ASTM standard was published in September 2014 that includes new equipment and crew competency provisions.

Certain states with large scale parasailing operations are also addressing parasail safety. Most notably, Florida passed a new law in October of 2014 that adopted parasailing weather protocols using the ASTM F2399.

The Coast Guard currently plans to continue to monitor compliance with the ASTM parasailing standards and their effectiveness. The non-regulatory approach appears to be working well. However, future incidents will be thoroughly investigated and tracked to ensure any new threats to safety are rapidly addressed.

A few facts about parasailing:

• It is estimated that more than 3 million passengers participate in a parasailing excursion on U.S. waters each year.
• There is a known fleet of 325 parasailing vessels conducting operations in U.S. waters.
• 135 (42 percent) of the vessels carry more than 6 passengers and are inspected and certified by the Coast Guard.
• 190 (58 percent) of the vessels carry less than six passengers and are not inspected by the Coast Guard.
• The total inspected fleet of 135 parasailing vessels represents a 150 percent increase from the 2005 fleet.
• Federal regulations for small passenger and uninspected passenger vessels do not have provisions covering parasailing equipment or operations.

Resource links

Recommendations for parasail operators brouchure

MSIB 03-15: Parasailing flight and safety rules

Marine Safety Alert 07-13: Parasailing operations – Know your ropes

National Transportation Safety Board: Parasailing safety – special investigative report

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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