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Preparing for a USCG Auxiliary Courtesy Inspection

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Vessel Safety Check

Have you ever noticed the decals on the side of a mast that identify a USCG Auxiliary inspected vessel? Have you ever wondered what that was about and if you should get one? The simple answer is yes, you should, for two reasons. The first reason is that the inspection is free of charge and designed to help you comply with current national and local regulations, which will help you avoid a citation and fines should the US Coast Guard board your vessel for an inspection (which they do with some frequency). The second reason is to help ensure the safety of your vessel by making sure you have what you need to deal with an emergency.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free courtesy inspections to boaters who wish to ensure that their boat and equipment meets all federal and state safety requirements. The vessel examiners who perform these examinations are specially trained and informed on the latest legal requirements, but they have no legal authority.  The goal is to prevent boaters from receiving equipment-related citations from the Coast Guard and to prevent accidents by promoting vessel safety.

These inspections are intended to be an educational experience. The vessel examiners check that all required safety items are onboard and in good working order.  If they find everything in compliance, they will award a decal to affix to your boat.  If not, they will review any violations and discuss how to comply.  If requested, they will also review the proper use of any safety equipment, such as life saving devices and fire extinguishers.

To find out when inspections are scheduled for your area, contact the Department of Information and Communication Services via e-mail at or call Coast Guard Customer Infoline at 1-800-368-5647. If you have a group interested in organizing a local inspection, you may be able to arrange for a special appointment. The website shared by the USCG Auxiliary and the US Power Squadron is a good one for preparing yourself and your vessel for an inspection. They have information on all the requirements to help you prepare, a listing of the items that most often cause a boat to fail an inspection, and contact information for arranging an inspection in your area. Click on the link below.

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Vessel Safety Check

Vessel Safety Check/Required Equipment List

NUMBERING (for registered vessels) NAME and hailing port for documented vessels - Proper spacing, minimum 3" block letters, visible color
REGISTRATION/DOCUMENTATION - Papers must be original, on board and current
NAVIGATION LIGHTS - Must operate and show proper configuration
SOUND PRODUCING DEVICE - Horn, whistle, or other device
BELL - Boats 12m [39.4 ft.] or longer
One wearable for each passenger, minimum of 2.
Boats 16+ ft also one type IV thowable
FIRE EXTINGUISHERS - Mounted, current tag, minimum for size & type of boat (HALON/FE241/CO2)
VISUAL DISTRESS SIGNALS (VDS) INTERNATIONAL - Minimum flares/aerial rockets or approved signals, not expired
BACKFIRE FLAME ARRESTER - Approved type, tight installation, clean
VENTILATION - For closed compartments with potential for explosive vapors and an ignition source. Installed blower must work - warning posted
FUEL SYSTEM - Tanks secure. Over 7 gal are considered permanent & must be grounded and vented. Hoses in good condition, no leaks
ANCHOR & ANCHOR LINE - Suitable for the boat and the boating area
ALTERNATE PROPULSION - Boats under 16 ft, paddle, oar, etc.
DEWATERING DEVICE - Pumps must work, extra manual bailer
OVERALL VESSEL CONDITION - Bilge & equipment room clean, well maintained. Not overloaded or overpowered, no auto parts
ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS - Batteries secure, terminals covered, well-organized wiring, proper fuses/circuit breakers
GALLEY/HEATING SYSTEMS - Secure system, proper tank installation. No flammable material nearby
MARINE SANITATION DEVICE - Approved, overboard discharge sealed
MARPOL TRASH PLACARD - Boat 26 ft +, written plan 40 ft +
POLLUTION PLACARD - Boat 26 ft & over, w/machinery compartment
NAVIGATION RULES - Boats 12m (39.4 ft) and over
STATE REQUIREMENTS - Comply with all safety requirements

Additional items

The following items are not a requirement for the decal. Instead, these additional items are required under Federal and State laws. The Vessel Examiner checks these item to assist the boater in determining if the vessel meets the requirements of these laws.

CAPACITY PLATE - Visible, monohull power boats, under 20 ft
CERTIFICATE OF COMPLIANCE LABEL - Monohull power boats under 20 ft, w/installed engines, except outboards, manufactured after 10/31/72
HULL ID NUMBER - All boats manufactured after 10/31/72


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