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Mr. BAKER. They certainly are, sir.
Mr. HARRIS. I think that is all that I will inquire about that case at this time, but a little later on, at the appropriate time we do want more information on it.
Mr. BEAMER. Mr. Chairman, I am sorry, but I think there is one other point that I forgot to ask the General Counsel. And this need not be answered, because it refers to the courts.
I wonder how much chance any claimant, shall we say, has with the court of appeals for redress or reconsideration considering the limited number of cases of review that come before them.
Mr. BAKER. That is a difficult question for me to answer.
Mr. BAKER. I can only suggest that the appropriate scope of court review is to determine whether, within the legal standards, the Commission has appropriately exercised its judgment, whether that judgment has been arbitrarily abused, and whether or not there is substantial evidence to support their findings.
Mr. BEAMER. The reason I raise the question is because it has been suggested, or hinted at least, that some cases have not been taken to the court of appeals because it was thought it was hopeless.
Mr. BAKER. That is correct. This Congress has seen fit to make the deciding body the FCC. To that extent there should not be a great amount of Monday morning quarterbacking by other parties in the area which is supposed to be decided by the FCC.
Mr. BEAMER. That is all, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HARRIS. Mr. Commissioner, there are several other bills that you were to report on and present comments on behalf of the Commission. One of those bills was sponsored by our colleague, a member of this committee, from Massachusetts, Mr. Macdonald, H. R. 7536. I think if you do not mind, at this point I will ask you if you will step aside.
Mr. Macdonald is here and wishes to testify on his bill, and we will let his testimony appear in the record following your complete report on behalf of the Commission.
Mr. WEBSTER. I am at your service any time, sir.
Mr. HARRIS. Thank you very much.
We are glad to have our colleague and a member of this committee, a very able one, too, with us this morning in support of his legislation. I recall that in the last session he came to us and wanted his bill considered at that time. We endeavored to schedule the hearings. But it was during the closing days of the session, and we were busy on the floor of the House in morning and afternoon and were never able to get to it. We did promise that immediately at the convening of this session we would give this bill consideration.
Torbert, we are glad to have you. You may present your case.
STATEMENT OF HON. TORBERT H. MACDONALD, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS
Mr. MACDONALD. Thank you very much, distinguished chairman of the subcommittee and my distinguished colleagues on the committee. I appreciate being asked to come here, and I certainly appreciate being able to testify in behalf of this bill.
The bill itself is H. R. 7536, and in essence it is designed to require certain vessels carrying passengers for hire to be fitted with radiotelephone installations.
My reason for introducing this bill is very simple. I want to insure that the obvious steps necessary to saving human life are taken. As you know, memories are short, except in the families of victims of marine accidents, but this does not wipe out the terrible cost in lives which can occur when vessels become casualties. There already exists legislation to provide communications safeguards for large vessels which sail the high seas and even for most of the ships of the Great Lakes. These ships face hazards which would be very great in the absence of proper precautions, and the recognition of these needs has resulted in both national legislation and international treaties setting forth technical safety requirements.
Marine communication has proved to be of such importance to safe operation that every year an increasing number of small craft, both privately owned, pleasure craft or commercial fishing craft, are voluntarily adding radio telephones. Two or three years ago, 32,500 vessels were so equipped. Today the number has risen to close to 45,000. This represents an astounding increase, and is striking evdience of the importance of such equipment to the owners of these vessels. They want to be able to keep in touch with weather advisories, other vessels, and Coast Guard stations, as well as to have the convenience of communications for business or individual needs. The modern radio telephone has become reliable enough and simple enough that a nontechnical person with a few minutes instruction is capable of using the equipment. Licensing is about as simple as receiving a license to operate a private automobile. This is in contrast to the stiff technical examinations which commercial operators or even amateur radio operators must pass.
Despite the fact that many thousands, yes, tens of thousands of boatowners are voluntarily adding radio telephones, there remains a gap in communications protection. My proposal is designed to fill that gap. Imagine if you will, the diversity of craft, numbering about 7,000 which presently carry passengers for hire on a permanent basis and yet are without radio telephones. Some may be seaworthy craft carefully operated and well maintained. Others may barely be held together. But probably most of them have in some degree a common characteristic. They are usually loaded with passengers who for the most part are not too familiar with problems of the sea, even elementary marine safety requirements, and the host of other practical matters which affect safe conduct of water transportation.
It is not hard to imagine the number of small vessels loaded with passengers to the limits of safety specified by the Coast Guard, if not over those limits, which go cruising in our coastal waters each year. It is easy to imagine the good times, the antics, the foolhardy displays which accompany such expeditions. And it is often the good Lord, not the wisdom or the careful conduct of these people, who brings them safe to shore. Some people call the safe return to shore under these conditions fool's luck. But it seems to me that part of our responsibility on this earth is to do those things which prudence dictates are necessary to preserve human life, not to rely on miracles, even though they do sometimes seem to occur.
We have been treated in recent years, as has been true through history, to marine accidents which occurred despite any intentions to avoid them. But many of these undoubtedly could have been minimized in seriousness with forethought and with basic precautionary steps. The provision of communications to meet distress needs in my opinion is as basic a requirement as the carrying of life preservers, life rafts, running lights, buoyancy tanks, and a number of other common requirements for vessels.
Naturally, no normal vessel owner is going to deliberately invite loss of life. But at the same time it is very easy to procrastinate, to rationalize that perhaps such equipment is not necessary in particular circumstances, or to argue that the vessel does not earn enough to pay for the installation of even a simple radio telephone set. It is these cases which my bill is designed to correct. Anyone who operates a vessel for hire carries a special moral obligation to insure the lives of the amateurs entrusted to his care and to see that every reasonable precaution for safety is being taken. All that is being asked is that these owners be ordered to do what 45,000 other owners have done voluntarily.
Those members of the committee from coastal States surely can recall instances in which tragedy or near-tragedy was influenced by the absence or presence of radio communications. In my own State of Massachusetts, I would refer you to the case of the vessel Pilgrim Belle. On June 22, 1955, this ship struck a rock in Boston Harbor. On board were 272 passengers, mostly teen-agers, out for a carefree trip. Immediate help was needed. It was unavailable because of one stark, outrageous fact. The Pilgrim Belle had no radio. The captain managed to run his ship aground on Spectacle Island. Fortunately, people on that island were able to call for help, and other vessels arrived in time to rescue all who had been on board. How easy it would have been for the story to have been different. But for the luck of being able to wallow to shore before sinking there would have been black headlines in the newspapers, and black despair in hundreds of families of Massachusetts.
Let me say that the Pilgrim Belle had been on that very run for a period of over 5 years and never had a radio telephone communication aboard, which the Coast Guard investigation revealed.
Last August 12, 1955, the vessel Marvel in Chesapeake Bay floundered with a loss of 14 lives. Negligence charges are to be pressed against the master of the vessel in the courts. But it is the opinion of the Coast Guard that the radio alleged aboard was inoperative. There is now no mandatory inspection law that provides the Federal Communications Commission with the authority and responsibility for checking the working condition of radios in smaller craft that may happen to add them voluntarily. My bill would institute mandatory inspection on those vessels which carry passengers for hire.
A third typical case of marine casualty was the loss of the vessel Jack on June 10, 1951, in Long Island Sound, costing 11 lives. Here was another passenger-for-hire vessel which had no radio. Only by the luck of the sea another ship came to the rescue. Ironically, this second ship too was without communication facilities and could not summon assistance.
I have described my proposal as one which provides a simple step toward greater safety. The practical manner of cost is one which we
cannot escape. If the FCC sets as its technical standard for these vessels presently exempt from mandatory provisions of radios the kind of set pleasure craft carry voluntarily, the cost will be moderate. A set which has an output of power of 50 watts or an output of 25 watts can be purchased from a number of major manufacturers for about $600. There are some supplementary costs for the crystals, the antenna, the ground plate, and installation so that the total cost can be about $800 to $900. Perhaps a set can be designed and installed to hold the total cost as low as $500. I want to emphasize that these are not installations which will require the addition of a radio operator to the crew of such a vessel. They are as simple and economical to operate as the telephone at our office desks.
It is also possible to lease sets, and the annual cost usually runs at a rate which corresponds roughly to the cost of purchase amortized over a 5-year period.
Therefore, I feel that my bill sets up a very simple and practically attainable standard. Surely what 45,000 other owners have been able to add voluntarily for a few hundred dollars is something which we can expect of those owners who are willing to assume the obligations which accompany offering to carry passengers for hire.
This bill is definitely not one which will incidentally redound to the advantage of any manufacturer with a patented product. There are approximately 35 manufacturers who produce sets of the type which the FCC is likely to require.
There may be members of this committee who are not familiar with the way radio telephone service is provided. The owner who adds it buys his own equipment or leases it, as I have described already. He may then communicate with other vessels, and with certain shore stations. He can also make calls to any telephone in the country using the facilities of the Bell System. For this latter service, he makes no regular monthly payment and carries no Bell System equipment as we do in our homes. Rather, a call to a regular telephone from the ship is routed through a shore station of the Bell System and is billed individually at regular toll rates. Vessel owners may register their call letters with the telephone company if they want to send and receive calls using telephone company shore facilities.
As far as I know there is no opposition to my bill. However, the FCC may want to have time to develop specific standards and plans for enforcement, and undoubtedly will want some budget relief if they are to carry additional workload. The principle of my proposal is not in question, although I would welcome constructive suggestions for amendment of the bill to meet any real objections if they should develop. I sincerely hope that it will be possible to give speedy approval of this measure. I do not want us to approach another boating season without having done our utmost to insure that reasonable safety measures have been taken to make it and subsequent seasons free from disaster and death.
By way of going forward, projecting my mind a little to the FCC position, I understand that their position is that they favor the bill, which, of course, you will hear in more detail from the Commissioner. However, I believe that they feel that my bill perhaps goes a little far in amending the act. Because they note, and purposely on my part, that this bill would affect any vessel transporting any passenger or passengers for hire.
Well, I feel that the FCC may think that the administering of this bill, the problems of inspection of ships that would be perhaps not as large as contained in the act itself, which in my understanding is 65 feet in length, or carrying 12 passengers. Actually, I thought about this a good deal and feel that every boat that puts itself up to transport people for hire should have this type of regulation.
That will do two things, in my opinion. It will drive out from the market-I won't use the word "unscrupulous," but people who see an opportunity on our coast of New England, for a concrete example, and I am sure it is true along both coasts of our country, to make extra money on Sundays. They may have a small boat and put up a sign saying "Deep Sea Fishing" or "Travel With the Lobstermen". City people fall into this advertising trap and hire these men to take them out. The people who do this are not the lobstermen or the legitimate fisher people along the New England coast. They are people who maybe have a farm or come down from the city themselves and have a small craft, and don't even really know the rudiments of navigation. The boats are not inspected. In order to pay for the upkeep of their boat, they will take passengers out on any Sunday.
If you have ever seen the crowds going to these boats and the condition that they are in, the condition of the boats themselves, and see a fog coming up, as it does quickly along the New England coast, and then realize that these people have somehow got back into port safely, you just have to shake your head and wonder about the adage about God taking care of fools and-you know the other category. Because weekends on the coast are perennial dangers, in my opinion under the present setup.
Perhaps the administration of this bill would be quite difficult. But I feel strongly that the mere presence of this provision, the mere having it in the law, will keep from that business a lot of people who are now in it on a hit-or-miss basis.
Secondly, if the FCC feels that the requirements in the present act of 65 feet or 12 passengers should be had, I would point out that 65 feet in a coastal boat is a pretty big-sized boat. I should think the average passenger-for-hire boat along the New England coast at most to be 30 to 35 feet. And I would recommend to them that they see just how many of the boats which would be affected are under the 65-foot regulation and adopt a more lenient position about that. I will be happy, Mr. Chairman, to stay around, if you feel it necesif the Commissioner is going to testify on my particular bill, or just in passing among other bills, so that if some points are raised I can be called back and asked some questions.
Mr. HARRIS. Thank you very much. May I say to my colleague, we are very glad to have your very fine and clear and precise statement in support of your bill. It certainly is a manifestation of your interest in this problem that affects the people throughout your area, as well as the other areas of the country.
If there is no objection we might let Mr. Webster come back now to take this up and continue the discussion on it here.
In the meantime, Mr. Hale has a question.
Mr. HALE. I wanted to know, Mr. Macdonald: Have you any idea. of the cost or range of costs which would be imposed on passenger boats in this legislation?