The move comes after a pontoon boat capsized in Maryland earlier this month
In the wake of a rental boat capsize that dumped 15 vacationers in the Ocean City Inlet channel in Maryland on August 1, some are questioning regulations surrounding boat rentals and what repercussions rental companies face when an accident occurs.
None of the passengers were seriously injured when the pontoon boat began coming apart and capsized after striking a bridge, and “mechanical failure” was listed as the main cause of the incident, according to Natural Resource Police (NRP) investigator Lt Catherine Medellin, who spoke with the Salisbury Daily Times.
The weight of the passengers permitted on board also played a role, Medellin said.
Christina Dorris, whose husband was at the helm of the rental pontoon, said she was told by an employee that their 15-person party would not exceed the boat’s limit. Later, Dorris said, she realised the party’s 3,021-pound total greatly exceeded the pontoon’s 2,750-pound limit.
“They saw 15 of us, and none of us were light people,” said passenger Connor Tessler, estimating his lightest friend weighs just over 200 pounds. “It’s just crazy that they didn’t take anybody’s weight or nobody was weighed there.”
The seaside resort city has a high rate of rental boats and personal watercraft and NRP safety education coordinator Julie Brown said the guidelines and practices in place have kept many safe throughout the years.
The rental company had advised the party to show up early before their scheduled time to board the pontoon, according to Tressler.
“We thought there was going to be an extensive run-through, or a training video – but none of that happened,” he said.
Rental companies are expected to provide a “rental vessels safety information sheet” to those looking to operate a rental boat, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and to operate under certain guidelines. Weighing passengers is not specifically required, however.
“We literally weigh them,” said Bayside Boat Rentals owner Chad Cutlip, who has been renting boats for more than 20 years in Ocean City. “Things happen everywhere, but there can be ways to avoid it.”