What Authority For Random Boardings?

Question: I know the Coast Guard and other Federal agencies acting under your authority can conduct random stops for vessel safety checks of recreational boats, but I cannot find the legal authority for these stops. Can you point me in the direction of the appropriate Code of Federal Regulations?

Answer: Any law enforcement agency can stop a vessel under a state or local authority or like the Coast Guard, a federal authority. Those stops are not "Vessel Safety Checks" which we in the Auxiliary do and we only perform them with the permission of the boater and we are not to do them on the water while underway. When we do a vessel safety check, there is no "ticket" given nor is the information turned over to the Coast Guard for any violations we may find, we simply show the boater what they need to do to be compliant and not get a ticket on the water for non-compliance.

An important Coast Guard mission is maritime law enforcement on the high seas and on water subject to Federal laws. Of particular interest are laws dealing with the 200-mile Fishery Conservation Zone, drug smuggling, illegal immigration, and safety and water pollution.

To enforce these laws, the Coast Guard is empowered to board and inspect vessels. Many of the laws can be successfully enforced only by boarding a vessel while it is underway. Boarding's are not necessarily based on suspicion that a violation already exists aboard the vessel. Their purpose is to prevent violations. The courts have consistently upheld this authority. All Coast Guard officers and petty officers are Federal law enforcement officers and they may board any United States vessel anywhere.

Safety Items in Florida

Question: I have a 18' bass boat in Florida, what safety items do I have to have on board?

Answer: See the Virtual VSC link on our menu on this website as it shows you all the items needed. You can self-inspect your boat by using the Virtual VSC and then request a local volunteer using the I Want a VSC link using your ZIP Code.

Portable Toilets

Question: Will a small 2 1/2 self contained portable toilet pass Coast Guard vessel check?

Answer: The Coast Guard does not inspect portable toilets, since they are not "installed" on a vessel. Those MSDs which have the ability to pump waste overboard are inspected.

Florida State Sticker

Question: Does a documented boat still need a current Florida registration sticker to pass a safety check?

Answer: The Florida law requires the sticker be affixed to the hull, therefore it is required for the award of the Deal.

Lost Registration in Washington State

Question: I live in WA state and I just bought a 14' runaboat. The person I purchased it from lost the title but did write something out. My question is, do I have to go to the DOL and apply for an affidavit of lost title?

Answer: I would suggest that you start on the Washington State Boating website on this page:


That page has information that should point you in the right direction.

Location of VSC Decal

Question: Where should a VSC decal be affixed?

Answer: The Vessel Examiner should have placed the Decal on your vessel or supervised the placement of the decal as we are not allowed to just give a decal to a boat owner.

It should be placed where it is readily visible to authorities while underway. This is normally on the lower forward corner of a port side window or a lower corner on the port side of the windshield. If no window is available it may be affixed to the dashboard or the back of the seat. It should only be affixed to permanently installed equipment.

Pollution and Marpol Trash Placards

Question: I was told to get a pollution placard and a marpol trash placard, but am having difficulty finding them. I have been to several marinas and looked online, but have not had much luck. Can you please direct me in the right direction.

Answer: They would be available in boating stores such as West Marine or BoatUS. You might also ask the volunteer that checked out your boat as many of us carry extras when we are out checking boats so we can pass them if they do not have either.