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builders. The USCG began to track accidents and real-
ize that something needed to be done. Working with
industry and boaters the ABYC came into being in
1954, followed by minimum safety standards to pre-
vent mainly sinking, explosions and fire. The industry
safety record began to rise and more boats were on
the water. The success of the ABYC standards resulted
in bare-minimum laws in the Federal Boat Safety act,
which exists today in the form of the US Code of Fed-
eral Regulations Title 33. We have found a harmony in
safety with Federal Laws supplemented by voluntary
standards; a valuable partnership.
Enough background for now, lets fast forward to 2010
and the current use and production of the ABYC stan-
dards. A couple key points to consider before we jump
to detail:
The ABYC is a non-profit entity supported by mem-
bership and grants, this is what keeps the lights on.
Interestingly enough, less than a third of our member-
ship is in the manufacturer category.
The standards process is an OPEN and TRANSPAR-
ENT process. According to our rules (available to any-
one for the asking) EVERYONE who is materially af-
fected by the standard can participate and NO ONE
sector (e.g. boaters, manufacturers or surveyors) can
dominate the consensus voting body.
We have a third-party responsibility to ANSI (American
National Standards Institute), we must turn over all the
voting, comments and paperwork generated by the
review of a standard, they confirm that we have fol-
lowed the process and have addressed every comm
submitted and allow us to produce an American Na-
tional Standard (ANS/ABYC)
Common claims about the ABYC process include
phrases such as “owned by industry”, “how big of a
body count does there have to be before a standard
changed”, etc. I have to say that 100% of these co
ments are made by folks who have never been in-
volved in the process. Lets address the owned by in-
dustry comment first. Let’s revisit my previous state
ment on cowboy capitalism: You don’t participate, y
have no idea what changes are coming up and no i
fluence on the discussion . . . simple. For marine bu
nesses to survive, they must send someone from th
organizations to each and every meeting. This proce
would simply grind to a halt without the buy-in and
ticipation of the manufactures. The manufacturers i
fluence on the process is limited by the balance of v
ing members on a committee, a group of manufact
ers (should they ever agree on the same thing!) coul
never fail or pass a document through a committee
vote. What I find more disconcerting than manufac-
turer influence is the presentation of theoretical acc
dents to the committee; the dreaded “what if” scen
ios. This situation addresses both the “body count”
statement and the “reasonably safe product” discus
sion I alluded to earlier.
Put yourself in a room full of industry experts from a
areas of knowledge. A well meaning individual has
submitted a comment regarding scantlings, for in-
stance. The comment is derived from his experienc
dealing with the ISO scantlings standards (7 parts a
still not complete) and designing boats. The comme
surrounds the lack of scantlings in US standards an
that ABYC should mimic the ISO documents in this
area. The commenter insists that there are multiple
safety issues in the US boating market because of t
lack of scantling standards. We commence with ho
of discussion until someone in the room hits the ke
point; show me the data. The fact is that there is no
evidence based on the USCG Boating Accident Repo
Data (or BARD) that accidents are occurring due to i
sues with hull thickness, stringers and rudder constr
tion; in fact, not one that I have found can be contri
uted to lack of initial construction strength. One has
stand back and look for a moment; does the cost of
initiating a scantlings program in the US justify the
Members of an ABYC PTC (Project Technical Committee)
doing the hard work of modifying a standard. It's volun-
teers like this who make the standards possible. ABYC
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