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Larger Waistlines Mean Smaller Capacity For Commercial Water Transit

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File photo of a ferry. (Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a ferry. (Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) - The United States Coast Guard has scaled back the maximum number of passengers allowed on a given ferry, resulting in a lower maximum capacity rate for commercial vessels such as the Savannah Belles Ferry.

According to documents provided to CBS Atlanta by the U.S. Coast Guard, the final rule for the “Passenger Weight and Inspected Vessel Stability Requirements” amendment goes into effect in March of 2012.

All companies in ownership of such vessels must make all applicable mandatory alterations before that time.

The aforementioned documents state that the final rule was passed to avoid any potential safety issues caused by the excessive strain of larger human cargo.

“The Coast Guard amends its regulations governing the maximum weight and number of passengers that may safely be permitted on board a vessel and other stability regulations, including increasing the Assumed Average Weight per Person … to 185 lb.,” the document states. “Updating regulations to more accurately reflect today’s average weight per person will maintain intended safety levels by accounting for this weight increase.”

This legislation has been several years in the making, starting when the U.S. Coast Guard proposed the amendment in 2008.

“A number of different design factors, including stability, limit the total number of persons permitted on a passenger vessel,” the final rule documents state.

These rules only apply to commercial vehicles. There are no such regulations in place for privately owned boats or other recreational water vehicles.

“This rule affects U.S.-flagged commercial passenger vessels, not the kind of recreational sailboat you would buy for your personal use,” Lisa Novak, public affairs officer for the U.S. Coast Guard, said to CBS Atlanta.

A report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said that ferry boats will be shedding between 14 to 20 seats per boat during the next month.

Calls made by CBS Atlanta to Savannah Belles Ferry to find out how these regulations would affect operations were not immediately returned.

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