The 23-metres-long diving boat 'Conception' suffered a major fire in the early morning hours of 2nd September, while moored just off the shore of Santa Cruz Island and sank.

The fast-moving flames are believed to have trapped the passengers who were sleeping at that time in the vessel's lower decks.

A total of 34 people died as a result, while only five survived, including the boat’s captain and four crew members, who were on deck and escaped on an inflatable boat.

Following the tragedy, the USCG of Commercial Vessel Compliance issued the Marine Safety Information Bulletin 008-19, "Passenger vessel compliance and operation readiness".

This bulletin identifies regulations related to firefighting, lifesaving, preparations for emergencies, and means of escape that serve as a reminder for owner and operators to ensure the safety of the passengers and crew while onboard.

Meanwhile, a USCG Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) has been convened and will conduct a thorough and comprehensive marine casualty investigation to determine the causal factors that contributed to the tragedy.

Until then, the USCG recommends that owners, operators, and masters of passenger vessels immediately complete the following:

  • Review the routes and conditions listed on the vessel’s Certificate of Inspection (COI) including the number of passengers and overnight passengers permitted. Ensure crew members are aware of and clearly understand their obligations including any additional requirements detailed on the COI.
  • Review emergency duties and responsibilities with the crew and any other crew member in a safety sensitive position to ensure they comprehend and can comply with their obligations in an emergency to include the passenger safety orientation. Ensure emergency escapes are clearly identified, functional, and remain clear of objects that may impede egress.
  • Review the vessel log book and ensure records of crew training, emergency drills, and equipment maintenance are logged and current. Additionally, it is recommended that the master complete log entries to demonstrate to the Coast Guard that the vessel is operating in compliance with routes and conditions found on the COI.
  • Ensure all required firefighting and lifesaving equipment is onboard and operational.
  • Reduce potential fire hazards and consider limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords.
  • Review the overall condition of the passenger accommodation spaces and any other space that is readily available to passengers during the voyage for unsafe practices or other hazardous arrangements.