USCG safety equipment regulations

Posted: Friday, April 14, 2006

The Coast Guard sets minimum standards for recreational boats and associated safety equipment. To meet these standards some of the equipment must be Coast Guard approved. "Coast Guard Approved Equip-ment" meets Coast Guard specifications and regulations for performance, construction or materials.

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Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)

All recreational boats must carry one wearable PFD (Type I, II, III or Type V PFD) for each person aboard. A Type V PFD provides performance of either a Type I, II, or III PFD (as marked on its label) and must be used according to the label requirements. Any boat 16ft and longer (except canoes and kayaks) must also carry one throwable PFD (Type IV PFD).

Visual Distress Signals

All vessels used on coastal waters, the Great Lakes, territorial seas, and those waters connected directly to them, up to a point where a body of water is less than two miles wide, must be equipped with U.S.C.G. App-roved visual distress signals. Vessels owned in the United States operating on the high seas must be equipped with U.S.C.G. Approved visual distress signals.

These vessels are not required to carry day signals but must carry night signals when operating from sunset to sunrise:

• Recreational boats less than 16 feet in length

• Boats participating in organized events such as races, regattas, or marine parades.

• Open sailboats less than 26 feet in length not equipped with propulsion machinery.

• Manually propelled boats.

Fire Extinguishers

Fire Extinguishers are required on boats when any of the following conditions exist:

• Inboard engines are installed.

• There are closed compartments and compartments under seats where portable fuel tanks may be stored.

• There are double bottoms not sealed to the hull or which are not completely filled with flotation materials.

• There are closed living spaces.

• There are closed stowage compartments in which combustible or flammable materials are stored.

• There are permanently installed fuel tanks. (Fuel tanks secured so they cannot be moved in case of fire or other emergency are considered permanently installed. There are no gallon capacity limits to determine if a fuel tank is portable. If the weight of a fuel tank is such that persons on board cannot move it, the Coast Guard considers it permanently installed.)

Sound Producing Signalling Devices

The navigation rules require sound signals to be made under certain circumstances. Meeting, crossing and overtaking situations described in the Navigation Rules section are examples of when sound signals are required. Recreational vessels are also required to sound signals during periods of reduced visibility.

When operating on Inland Waters of the United States, vessels 39.4 feet/12 meters or more in length are required to carry on board a whistle or horn, and a bell.

Note: The requirement to carry a bell on board no longer applies to vessels operating on Inter-national Waters.

Any vessel less than 39.4 feet/12 meters in length may carry a whistle or horn, or some other means to make an efficient sound signal to signal your intentions and to signal your position in periods of reduced visibility.

Therefore, any vessel less than 39.4 feet/12 meters in length is required to make an efficient sound signal to signal your intentions and to signal your position in periods of reduced visibility.

Vessel Safety Check (VSC)

What is a Vessel Safety Check?

A Vessel Safety Check (VSC) is a FREE check to boaters who wish to be sure that their vessel meets all federal and state equipment requirements. Vessel Examiners performing this service have been trained to look for some of the more common problems, which might occur on vessels or their associated safety equipment.

The items checked are:

• Proper Display of Numbers

• Registration/Documentation

• Personal Flotation Devices

• Visual Distress Signals (VDS)

• Fire Extinguishers

• Ventilation

• Backfire Flame Arrestor

• Sound Producing Devices/Bell

• Navigation Lights

• Pollution Placard

• MARPOL Trash Placards

• Marine Sanitation Device

• Navigation Rules

• State / Local Requirements

* Overall Vessel Condition

If the vessel has all the required items (listed above) on board and are in good working order, the vessel examiner will award a VSC decal to affix to the vessel.

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