Coast guard all at sea over wave of obesity
Life on the ocean waves has become a lot less healthy, according to the US Coast Guard, which believes that America's ever-expanding waistline threatens the safe running of every passenger vessel in the country.
Concerned that heavier occupants might cause commercial vessels to capsize or sink, officials have added almost two stone to the weight of the "average" person used to calculate how many people a ship is licensed to carry.
In the past, stability tests have worked on the basis that the average man, woman or child who sets foot on board would weigh 160 pounds. Under the US Coast Guard's new rules, that has jumped to the more robust figure of 185 pounds.
The increase reflects data kept by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which believes that the average American male is now 194.7 pounds, while women tip the scales at 164.7 pounds. About a third of US adults are considered clinically obese.
For the owners of passenger vessels, the new laws, which took effect last month, have served to reduce capacity. In Washington State, where a fleet of large ferries connects Seattle with surrounding islands, a typical ship has seen its maximum number of occupants cut from 2,000 to 1,700.
"It's all about safety," Coast Guard Lieutenant Kirk Beckman told reporters.
In New York, ferries have suffered a 15pc cut to their maximum capacity.
The US Coast Guard's norms apply to any ocean-going boat which carries more than six customers.