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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
'I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
music
Sport
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
football
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lift and Elevator Service Manager - Birmingham

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Circles South East Youth Service: Youth Services Volunteer

this is an unpaid voluntary position: Circles South East Youth Service: LOOKIN...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - OTE £30,000+

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading privately owned sp...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is require...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn