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It's the Law


When preparing to go out on a vessel, the operator must check that the legally required equipment is on board.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)


All vessels must have at least one Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device (life jacket) that is U.S. Coast Guard–approved, wearable, and of the proper size for each person on board or being towed. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.

South Carolina law requires all children under 12 years of age to wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD while on board a Class A (less than 16 feet long) vessel. The life jacket must be fastened and of the proper size for the child.

One U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type IV PFD must be on board vessels 16 feet or longer and readily accessible in addition to the above requirements.

One Type V personal flotation device may be substituted for any other type if it is specifically approved by the U.S. Coast Guard for the activity at hand. Type V PFDs may not be substituted on children weighing less than 90 pounds.

Each person riding on a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device.

Each person being towed behind a vessel must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD.

All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible.

In certain situations, paddleboards must carry a U.S. Coast Guard–approved PFD for each person on board.

Type I

Type I: Wearable Offshore Life Jackets

These vests are geared for rough or remote waters where rescue may take awhile. They provide the most buoyancy, are excellent for flotation, and will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water.

Type II

Type II: Wearable Near-Shore Vests

These vests are good for calm waters when quick rescue is likely. A Type II may not turn some unconscious wearers face up in the water.

Type III

Type III: Wearable Flotation Aids

These vests or full-sleeved jackets are good for calm waters when quick rescue is likely. They are not recommended for rough waters since they will not turn most unconscious persons face up.

Type IV

Type IV: Throwable Devices

These cushions and ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble. Because a Type IV is not designed to be worn, it is neither for rough waters nor for persons who are unable to hold onto it.

Type V

TYPE V: Special-Use Devices

These vests, deck suits, hybrid PFDs, and others are designed for specific activities, such as windsurfing, kayaking, or water-skiing. To be acceptable, Type V PFDs must be used in accordance with their label.