Friday, February 27, 2009

Small Boat Vessel Safety Checklist (VCS)

To determine if your recreational motorboat or sailboat meets Federal and State requirements, as well as recommended safety standards, contact the Coast Guard Auxiliary for a free Vessel Safety Check. Small commercial fishing vessels and vessels carrying six or fewer passengers for hire are also eligible for VSCs. A decal is awarded to boats that pass the examination. If your boat does not have the proper equipment, NO REPORT IS MADE TO ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITY. The Auxiliary examiner will advise you of the deficiencies so that you can correct them.
A vessel must meet the following Coast Guard Auxiliary standards for award of the VSC decal:
1. Numbering: The boat's registration number must be permanently attached to each side of the forward half of the boat. They must be plane, vertical, block characters, not less than three (3) inches high, and in a color contrasting with the background. A space or hyphen must separate the letters from the numbers. Place State tax stickers according to your state policy.

2. Registration / Document: Papers must be on board and agree with the Hull Identification (HIN) or Documentation Number. On documented pleasure vessels the hailing port, including city and state abbreviation, of not less than 4 inches in height must be on some clearly visible exterior part of the hull.

3. Personal Flotation Devices: PFDs shall be Coast Guard Approved, in good and serviceable condition, and of suitable size for the wearer. Boats less than 16 feet in length must be equipped with one wearable PFD for each person on board. Boats 16 feet and over must be equipped with one wearable PFD for each person plus one throwable.

4. Visual Distress Signals (VDS): All recreational boats used on coastal waters, Great Lakes, or the high seas, are required to carry Coast Guard Approved VDS. Vessel Safety Checks exceed the Federal Regulations by requiring vessels operating on inland waters to have a carry a suitable day and night VDS.

5. Fire Extinguishers: Vessel Safety Checks exceed the Federal Regulations by requiring that all vessels carry a minimum of one B-1 fire extinguisher.

6. Ventilation: Requirements are the same as the Federal Regulations.

7. Backfire Flame Arrestor: Vessel Safety Checks exceed the Federal Regulations by requiring all gasoline inboard and I/O motorboats, regardless of date of construction or engine installation, be equipped with a Coast Guard approved means of backfire flame control.

8. Sound Producing Devices: For compliance with "Navigation Rules" and for distress signaling purposes, all boats must carry some type of sound producing device capable of a 4 second blast audible for a half mile.

9. Navigation Lights: Vessels less than 16 feet in length are not required to have navigation lights. However, if the boat is equipped with them, they must be properly located and displayed.

10. Pollution Placards (Oily Waste Discharge): Vessels over 26 feet must display a placard, at least 5 by 8 inches, in a conspicuous place in the machinery spaces, or at the bilge pump control station.

11. MARPOL Trash Placard (Garbage Dumping Restrictions): United States vessels of 26 feet or longer must display in a prominent location, a durable placard at least 4 by 9 inches notifying the crew and passengers of the discharge restrictions.

12. Marine Sanitation Devises (MSDs): Recreational boats with installed toilet facilities must have an operable MSD. Vessels 65 feet and under must have either a type I, II, or III MSD and vessels over 65 feet must have either a type II or III MSD.

13. Navigation Rules: A current copy of the Navigation Rules (COMDTINST M16672.2D) must be carried onboard any vessel 39.4 feet and over.

14. State Requirements: State equipment requirements that pertain to basic safety and exceed standard VSC requirements will be also be checked by the Auxiliary vessel examiner and must be met before a VSC decal can be awarded.

15. General Condition: Also known as "seaworthiness". The boat must be free from fire hazards, in good overall condition with the bilges reasonably clean and the visible hull and structure generally sound. The maximum passenger capacity and horsepower must not be exceeded.

Other Checks:
a. Galley Equipment: Appliances and their fuel tanks must be properly secured, and the system must not leak. There must be no flammable material in the vicinity of stoves or heaters. Adequate ventilation must be provided for appliances and their fuel supply. Appliance fuel shut off valves must be readily accessible. Only common appliance fuel may be used on vessels. Gasoline, naphtha, and benzene are not allowed due to their highly volatile nature.

b. Electrical: Wiring must be in good condition and properly installed. No exposed areas or deteriorated insulation is permitted. The electrical system must be protected by fuses or manual resetting circuit breakers. Switches and fuse panels must be protected from rain or spray. Batteries must be secured to prevent movement and the terminals covered to prevent accidental arcing. In addition to the above requirements, the Auxiliary also recommends the following to receive a VSC Decal:

1. Fuel Systems: Portable fuel tanks (7 gallon capacity or less) must be constructed of sturdy non-breakable material and in good condition. Tanks shall be free of excessive corrosion and must not leak. Vents must be capable of being closed and the tank must have a vapor-tight, leak-proof cap. All tanks must be properly secured in the boat to prevent excessive movement. Permanent fuel tanks (over 7 gallon capacity) and fuel lines must be free of excessive corrosion and not leak. Fuel tanks must be secured and grounded. The fuel fill pipe must be tightly fitted to the fill plate and located outside the hull, where any spilled fuel will be directed overboard. A vent terminating outboard of the hull and compartments must lead to each permanent fuel tank.

2. Anchor and Anchor Line: The boat should be equipped with an adequate anchor and a line of suitable size and length for locality.

3. Alternate Propulsion: All boats less than 16 feet in length should carry a second method of propulsion such as a paddle, oar, etc.). If an alternate means of mechanical propulsion is carried, it must use separate fuel and starting source from the main propulsion motor.

4. De-watering Device: All boats should carry at least one effective manual de-watering device. This requirement is in addition to any installed electrical bilge pump that the vessel may have on board. To request a Vessel Safety Check, contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary.