Chapter 4: The Legal Requirements of Boating
Extinguishers are classified by a letter and number symbol. The
number indicates the relative size of the extinguisher, and the
letter indicates the type of fire it will extinguish.
- Type A fires are of combustible solids like
- Type B fires are of flammable liquids like
gasoline or oil.
- Type C fires are electrical fires.
All vessels are required to have a Type B fire extinguisher(s)
on board if one or more of the following conditions exist:
- Inboard engine
- Closed compartments where portable fuel tanks may be stored
- Double-bottoms not sealed to the hull or which are not completely
filled with flotation material
- Closed living spaces
- Closed storage compartments in which flammable or combustible
materials may be stored
- Permanently installed fuel tanks (any tank where the removal
of the tank is hampered by the installation of tie-down straps
Approved types of fire extinguishers are identified by the following
marking on the label—“Marine Type USCG Approved”—followed
by the type and size symbols and the approval number.
Use this chart to determine the type and quantity of fire extinguishers required for your vessel.
|Length of Vessel
||Without Fixed System
||With Fixed System *
|Less than 26 feet
|26 feet to less than 40 feet
||two B-I or one B-II
|40 feet to less than 65 feet
||three B-I or one B-II and one B-I
||two B-I or one B-II
|* refers to a permanently installed fire extinguisher system
Extinguishers should be placed in an accessible area—not near the engine or in a compartment, but where they can be reached immediately. Be sure you know how to operate them.
Fire extinguishers must be maintained in usable condition. Inspect extinguishers regularly to ensure the following.
- Seals and tamper indicators are not broken or missing.
- Pressure gauges or indicators read in the operable range.
- There is no physical damage, corrosion, leakage, or clogged nozzles.
Fire Extinguisher Charge Indicators
Check the charge level of your fire extinguishers regularly. Replace them immediately if they are not fully charged.
To check this style of extinguisher, depress the green button. If it is fully charged, the green button should pop back out immediately.
On this style of fire extinguisher, the needle indicator should be in the "full" range.
Backfire Flame Arrestors
Because boat engines may backfire– Explosion of prematurely ignited fuel or of unburned exhaust gases in an internal combustion engine,
all powerboats (except outboards) that are fueled with gasoline
must have an approved backfire flame protection system. Backfire
flame protection systems are designed to prevent the ignition of
gasoline vapors in case the engine backfires.
The backfire flame protection system may be:
- An approved backfire flame arrestor on each carburetor or …
- An engine and fuel intake system with backfire flame protection
equivalent to a backfire flame arrestor or …
- An attachment to each carburetor or to the engine air intake
that disperses flames caused by engine backfire to the atmosphere
outside the vessel and does not endanger the vessel’s occupants.
Backfire flame arrestors or equivalent backfire flame protection
systems must be:
- In good and serviceable condition and …
- U.S. Coast Guard–approved (must comply with SAE J-1928
or UL 1111 standards).
Periodically clean the flame arrestor(s) or the equivalent backfire
flame protection system and check for any damage.
Ventilation systems are crucial. Their purpose is to avoid explosions
by removing flammable gases. Properly installed ventilation systems
greatly reduce the chance of a life-threatening explosion.
- All gasoline-powered vessels, constructed in a way that would
entrap fumes, must have at least two ventilation ducts fitted
with cowls– Hooded opening designed to scoop in air to remove the fumes.
At least one exhaust duct must extend from the open atmosphere
to the lower bilge. At least one intake duct must extend from
a point at least midway to the bilge or below the level of the
carburetor air intake.
- Each permanently installed fuel tank must have an external
screened vent that is away from all hull openings.
- If your vessel is equipped with a power ventilation system,
turn it on for at least four minutes in either of these situations:
- After fueling
- Before starting the engine
- If your vessel is not equipped with a power ventilation system
(for example, a personal watercraft), open the engine compartment
and sniff for gasoline fumes before starting the engine.
Vessels built after July 31, 1980, which contain power exhaust blowers in gasoline engine compartments, must have the above warning sticker placed near the instrument panel.
All vessels equipped with an engine must be effectively muffled
by equipment that is constructed and used to muffle the noise of
the exhaust in a reasonable manner. Vessel operators may not hear
sound signals or voices if the engine is not adequately muffled.
- The use of cutouts is prohibited.
- It is illegal to exceed a noise level of:
- 86 dbA measured at a distance of 50 feet or more from
the vessel as defined by SAE J-34 or …
- 90 dbA measured using a stationary sound level test as
defined by SAE J-2005 if the engine was manufactured before
January 1, 1993, or 88 dbA if the engine was manufactured on
or after January 1, 1993 or …
- 75 dbA measured from the shoreline using a stationary
sound level test as defined by SAE J-1970.
- Exceptions to the above restrictions are made for vessels
participating in permitted regattas, boat races, or speed trials.
- A peace officer can require an operator to submit a
vessel to an on-site noise level test. If the vessel’s
engine exceeds the noise levels stated above, the officer will
instruct the operator to take immediate corrective action and
may direct the operator to terminate the voyage until the engine
is in compliance.
Vessel Safety Checks
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons will perform a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) of your vessel and equipment free of charge. This inspection covers federal and state requirements. If your vessel meets all VSC requirements, you will receive a VSC decal. If your vessel fails to meet all requirements, no report is made to any law enforcement agency.