WASHINGTON, D.C. (KLFY) — A new bill introduced by Sen. John Kennedy and co-sponsored by Rep. Clay Higgins would force companies to provide at least twice-daily updates to family members in the event of a search and rescue, such as the one underway for the Seacor Power.
The U.S. Coast Guard held briefings for family members of Seacor Power crewmen twice daily, and the Vessel Response Plan Improvement Act — as the new bill is known — would codify the practice as a requirement. Despite the fact that commercial vessels are currently required to develop detailed response plans for the Coast Guard, there is no requirement to update families of missing crewmembers.
The bill would require vessel owners to develop procedures for the immediate notification of next of kin in the event that search and rescue teams save or recover crewmembers following an emergency. Even in the absence of rescue or recovery developments, the bill would require vessel owners to update families at least two times each day while search and rescue efforts are ongoing.
“The brave families of the Seacor Power crew have suffered more than we can imagine, and it’s appalling that they couldn’t even get straight answers about their loved ones,” said Kennedy. “No Louisiana family should ever have to walk through tragedy with the added weight of the unknown just because of someone else’s poor planning. This bill would make sure that families get updates quickly, directly from the vessel’s owners, instead of being forced to sift through rumors in a time of pain. I’m incredibly sad that Louisiana has lost such faithful crewmembers, and I hope we can prevent others from bearing the burden that their loved ones have had to endure.”
“The Seacor tragedy exposed gaps in existing vessel response plan regulations, especially regarding the frequency and timeliness of updates for the crewmembers’ families,” said Higgins. “We want to ensure that professional, compassionate, and transparent communication is a component of every vessel response plan. Our legislation assists in that effort. Our prayers remain with the families of every crewmember and those still searching to bring their loved ones home.”
Download and read the text of the Vessel Response Plan Improvement Act below: