Does my 12 ft. open runabout with an outboard motor need a fire extinguisher?

Question: I had a vessel safety check performed on my boat in June of this year and was NOT awarded a decal. My boat is a 12 ft. open runabout, powered by an outboard motor. I was rejected from receiving the decal because of failure(s) of not having a fire extinguisher and failure of state and local requirements. It is my understanding that recreational boats under 26 ft. and powered by an outboard motor are NOT required to carry a fire extinguisher. I believe that the failure to meet state and local requirements was checked as failed because of this lack of a fire extinguisher, since the boat met all of the other requirements and this was the only area that the examiner spoke to me about. The examiner stated that because the boat carried a portable fuel tank for the outboard, it was required to carry a fire extinguisher. Please explain this contradiction.

Answer: You are correct that in most cases a craft of your size and with an outboard motor would not need a fire extinguisher.

Here is a list of exceptions:

  • All boats with closed compartments and compartments under seats where portable fuel tanks can be stored.
  • All boats with double bottoms not sealed to the hull or which are not completely filled with flotation materials.
  • All boats with closed living spaces. All boats with closed stowage compartments in which combustible or flammable materials are stored.
  • All boats with 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.

I cannot comment on the state regulations since I do not know in what state your craft has registration.

If you believe your boat meets the requirements, my best suggestion is to contact another Vessel Examiner for a recheck. The Coast Guard Auxiliary I Want a Vessel Safety Check! web page will help you in contacting an examiner. Since we are all volunteers, please allow up to few days to receive a response.

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