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A Vessel Safety Check (VSC) is not required by law but is highly recommended at the start of each boating season to ensure that your craft meets federal, state and local regulations and equipment requirements.

May 17-24, 2014 is National Safe Boating Week. There’s no better time to schedule one of the free examinations, which can be performed at the dock, ramp or even in your driveway.
Click here to submit a request.

Of course, before you undergo a VSC, it’s a good idea to know what it takes to pass one. The first thing you’ll need to do is have your State Registration or Coast Guard Documentation. The examiner will review these and will look for the correct registration/documentation numbers, state tax decals and hull identification number (HIN) on board.

You’ll also need the appropriate personal flotation devices for your vessel, as well as the required visual distress signals and fire extinguishers. You can find the requirements for each vessel type and size here. Make sure your distress signals and fire extinguishers are not expired.

Every vessel must have the proper navigation lights and sound-producing device — whistle, horn, siren or bell — in addition to the approved marine sanitation device (if so equipped).

Boats with closed engine and/or fuel tank compartments must have the right ventilation, and all gasoline-powered sterndrive or inboard boats must be equipped with an approved backfire flame-control device.

Boats 26 feet and over must display a “MARPOL” trash placard and, if they have a machinery compartment, an oily waste “pollution” placard must also be displayed. Boats 40 feet and over must also display a written trash disposal plan.

Examiners will check the overall vessel condition, looking for things such as a hazard-free deck, a clean bilge, safe electrical and fuel systems, and safe galley and heating systems. All should be well kept, structurally or mechanically sound, and free of corrosion and leaks.

Last but not least, all boats 39.4 feet and over must have a current copy of the Navigation Rules on board.

After a successful inspection, you sign the VSC document and receive a copy to keep on board, along with a decal to place on the vessel. The original documents go to the Coast Guard.

If you fail, you can correct the offending items and apply again. It’s still free, and passing the VSC will not only keep you safer but could also prevent a boating vessel check and citation once you’re on the water.

United Marine Underwriters is more than just boat insurance. Browse our Boats For Sale at BoatBrowser or our Lake Resource Guide at LakeBrowser or share your fishing stories and photos at True Fish Tales – the ones that did not get away.

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2 Responses to Could You Pass a Vessel Safety Check?

  1. Tom says:

    You are right, Stephen!

  2. J. Stephen Judd says:

    Thanks. A little timely nudge always keeps me aware of that one detail I forgot. (I would not have checked for that Marpol sticker!)

    You refer to one spec in the rules as “39.4 feet”. I realize you are translating 12 meters into feet for us, but please realize that the USA has officially been a metric country for 149 years. Please don’t suppress the standard units! We need to see them and use them and adapt our habits. Chart soundings are going to be switching to meters soon; it does no one any good to keep sweeping standard units under the rug.

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