Testimony on Ferry Safety Bill

Good afternoon Senator Collins, Representative McLean and members of the Transportation Committee,
I am here to present LD 1468, An Act to Improve the Safety of Ferries in the State
We are lucky here in Maine that we have a professional, committed and competent group of mariners who have done an outstanding job of operating our “Island Highways”. The Maine State Ferry Service (MSFS) has an outstanding safety record and I expect that will continue. It is also true that on boats and airplanes, incidents requiring immediate action can take place in a flash, and the training, skills and procedures need to be second nature to the crews. This can only be available with thorough training that has been accomplished before a crewmember reports for duty.
Over the years, I have been told of different aspects of the Ferry Service that need review. The input has come from a variety of sources, and finally rose to the level of requiring this action. I will discuss the bill as I am suggesting that it be amended. My research proved that it was difficult to determine whether certain issues raised by the 2008 Safety Management System report have been accomplished. You will hear testimony regarding the different views about these issues, and I determined that the best way to know the progress will be a new safety assessment. I will point your attention to the Operational Safety Assessment included with my testimony, and point out a few things. On page 33, you will see the beginning of the chart with recommended changes and the level of priority which determines the time schedule for correction. During discussions with the DOT, I was made aware that they agreed with this assessment tool which precluded the need for any changes to the Ferry Advisory Board. I am suggesting that no changes be made to that Board and that an initial review be accomplished immediately, and be reported back to the Committee of Jurisdiction by February 1, 2017.  
This review should address safety procedures and policies, standard operating procedures and training. It should be accomplished by an independent group like Safety Management Systems, LLC which performed the 2008 review, or an equivalent group separate from the MSFS to be agreed upon by the Committee and DOT.
The need for a better system of transport of medical samples for analysis has been identified. The availability of a lock box will suit the needs of the island clinics and should be available on all boats. The DOT was open to this and I expected to work out the details today, but the Coast Guard has weighed in with additional restrictions that we weren’t aware of. The procedures they suggest are already in place for transporting unattended items, but the need to address the method of packaging blood samples must be further explored. There are protocols already in place to address medical samples, and it places the needs we have in the lowest category of handling. While it may require an extra check when the item is placed aboard the boat, that ends the involvement of ferry personnel. I do not suggest a deadline for making this happen, but the DOT has agreed to work on it. The procedure that was in place for years is no longer viable, and the new one that allows someone to ride back and forth without tariff does not eliminate the expense of a person who in some cases takes most of the day to accomplish this task. The commitment to work toward a solution will also begin to address the other part of the bill that is not part of the Safety Assessment, customer relations.
The amendment also suggests eliminating the section regarding hazardous material transport. While I do not believe that Propane, gasoline and fuel oil should be transported on the same boats as passengers, the Coast Guard has determined that it is safe…sort of. The number of passengers must be reduced to 75 regardless of the normal capacity of the boat being used. The reality is that there are not extra boats as it originally seemed, the Coast Guard allows it and passengers have the option of waiting for a different boat when they find out that hazardous materials will be aboard. I have had input from different passengers and crew about this part and it is something that will be under more scrutiny in the future.
Customer service will fall under your oversight. The DOT needs to overcome a perception that they dictate changes to ferry schedules, and other policies, without consideration or input from the islanders. This creates bad will and keeps the Ferry Service from trying new ideas that may be advantageous to the users. The Ferry Service should work with the Committee and other resources to determine the best ways to allow public input into proposed changes.Rep. Kumiega and I have offered to facilitate meetings between the DOT and the island communities. We hope to the change the way communication happens between the concerned parties until there is a well established method for initiating changes.
Thank you for your attention, I will try to answer any questions you may have.

Senator Dave MiramantMaine District 12 Knox County

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