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Written by Lt. Cmdr. James Fogle, Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance
Coast Guard representatives recently attended the Parasailing Safety Symposium in Tampa, Florida, organized by the Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA). WSIA is a proponent of education, advocacy and leadership within the water sports industry, specifically for towed water sports activity like parasailing.
Parasailing is a highly enjoyable, recreational activity that an estimated 3.7 million passengers participate in each year across this country. Over the past 10 years, there have been a total of 68 parasailing-related injuries and 10 deaths. However, since 2013, the industry has seen a remarkable reduction in the number of serious injuries and deaths associated with parasailing-related activities. The Coast Guard attributes the improved safety record to the industry’s development of voluntary standards, specifically ASTM ‘Standard Practices for Parasailing F-3099-14,’ which provides guidance in areas of ‘weather’, ‘equipment’, ‘operations’, and ‘crew proficiency.’ The efforts to continuously update and improve the standard highlight the industry’s recognition that passenger safety is paramount and that operation of parasail vessels must be conducted in the safest manner possible.
Since the publishing of the first version of the parasailing-related ASTM standards in April 2013, there has only been one fatality. Obviously one fatality is one too many; however, we are encouraged regarding the industry’s willingness to adhere to voluntary standards and other industry-accepted best practices. This effort has contributed greatly to safer vessel operations and, by extension, a safer industry as a whole. We highly encourage the industry to remain vigilant as they continue to develop a robust safety regime.
The Coast Guard strongly recommends that all owners, operators, and crew members of parasail vessels become familiar with the ASTM standards and the manufacturer’s instructions for parasail equipment, which was highlighted by the Coast Guard in Marine Safety Alert 07-15, dated August 19, 2015.
The Coast Guard does not regulate parasail equipment, operational procedures, or mechanical systems used during parasailing; however, we do support the development of these ASTM standards and on-going efforts to improve them. Furthermore, we encourage individuals planning to arrange a parasailing excursion to be selective. Specifically, confirming that the operator adheres to the voluntary ASTM standards can help ensure an enjoyable excursion.
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