USCG leader supports licensing recreational boaters

WASHINGTON – U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen favors the creation of a licensing system for recreational boaters similar to the one which exists for motor vehicle driver’s licenses, reported in a story on its Web site this morning.

Allen said the potential for a terrorist attack launched from small boats means that states and the Coast Guard must cooperate better to watch who is on America’s waterways, although he doesn’t yet have details or formal recommendations for how a national permit system would work, Allen said he’d like to see boating licenses be similar to motor vehicle driver’s licenses, according to the story.

Allen told a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures on Dec. 6 he expects resistance to his idea from state lawmakers who don’t want to deal with the cost and details of licensing, and from the boat-building and tourism industries, which don’t want to risk a drop in revenues, reported.

“I’m trying to stick my toe in the water and see if I get bit by a piranha,” he was quoted as saying. “As good as we get at surveillance, as good as we get at patrolling and creating deterrence out there, sooner or later we’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that we need to know to a greater certainty who are operating boats out there, what boats are out there.”

Chris Edmonston, director of boating safety for the Boat Owners Association of The United States, said BoatU.S. is not opposed to boater education, but does not favor a system similar to that used for drivers licenses, according to the story.

“Mandatory education is one thing,” Edmonston was quoted as saying. “We’re not opposed to having people take a course. But we wouldn’t want to see it turn into a license that could be restricted or taken away. Driving a car is considered a privilege conferred by the state, but boating is considered a right. It gets back to that ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ sort of thing.”

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