Coastguard puts US on alert – over bulging waistlines

New guidelines for commercial vessels reflect country's growing weight problem

Los Angeles

Life on the ocean waves has become a lot less healthy, according to the US Coast Guard, which believes that America's ever-expanding waistline threatens the safe running of every passenger vessel in the country.

Concerned that heavier occupants might cause commercial vessels to capsize or sink, officials have added almost two stone to the weight of the "average" person used to calculate how many people a ship is licensed to carry. In the past, stability tests have worked on the basis that the average man, woman or child who sets foot on board would weigh 160 pounds. Under the US Coast Guard's new rules, that has jumped to the more robust figure of 185 pounds.

The increase reflects data kept by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention which believes that the average American male is now 194.7 pounds, while women tip the scales at 164.7 pounds. About a third of US adults are considered clinically obese.

For the owners of passenger vessels, the effect of the new laws, which took effect last month, has been to reduce capacity. In Washington State, where a fleet of large ferries connects Seattle with surrounding islands, a typical ship has seen its maximum number of occupants cut from 2,000 to 1,700. "It's all about safety," Coast Guard Lieutenant Kirk Beckman told reporters.

In Key Largo, Florida, the captain of Island Time, a dinner cruiser, said he could now cater to only 134 people, down from 153. In New York, ferries that carry commuters and sightseers have suffered a 15 per cent cut to their maximum capacity.

Despite the changes, the commercial fortunes of larger vessels are unlikely to be particularly badly affected by the new law, since such boats rarely tend to be filled. It is the captains of smaller ships, which often operate on thin margins, who may have most to lose.

The US Coast Guard's norms apply to any ocean-going boat which carries more than six customers. To that end, David McGowan, the owner of a fishing boat called Ms Magoo which has seen its capacity cut to 26 from 30, told the New York Times that its resale value had suffered a fall of about $100,000.

It may not be the last time that average weights are revised upwards, either. The girth of Americans continues to increase steadily, particularly in the South, where a cluster of states from Texas to Kentucky are suffering obesity rates approaching 40 per cent.

Since other nations aren't quite so rotund, some say the new rules discriminate against ships that fly the US flag in other parts of the world. A Coast Guard spokesman told the Miami Herald it had received complaints from the captain of a US-flagged ship based largely in the Far East. "He said Asians weigh less than you domestic Americans. He wanted to know why he should be constrained by how fat all the Americans got when he carried mostly Filipinos."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future