Effective today, April 1, 2021, the United States Coast Guard (“USCG”) requires operators of recreational vessels less than 26 feet in length to use an engine cut off switch (ECOS) and associated ECOS link (ECOSL) when operating in federal waters. The purpose of the new regulation is to prevent runaway vessels and the danger they pose. An ECOSL attaches the vessel operator to a switch that shuts off the engine if the operator is displaced from control of the vessel, such as when they may fall or be thrown overboard.

Since 2018, the USCG has required all manufacturers of covered recreational boats to equip the vessels with an ECOS. Most vessels are equipped with an ECOS Link. The new provision requires individuals operating recreational vessels with an ECOS Link to use them. Exceptions would include when the boat is idling or docking.


Continue Reading Maritime Law: If you boat in federal waters, take note of a new federal law effective today

Regional and larger boat shows are often hosted in late winter and early spring when manufacturers are ready to roll out the years newest products. Here are some quick tips to consider before visiting a boat show.

Before You Go

  • Identify your budget and the type of boat you are interested in. Don’t forget to consider costs for maintenance, storage, insurance, and registration/documentation.
  • If you’re planning to finance your purchase, consider qualifying in advance.
  • Review the shows exhibitor list before you go, and identify the brands, dealers or specific boats you are interested and visit those dealer and manufacturer websites in advance. Most shows also have online maps available in advance so you can plot your course.
  • Prepare a list of questions for the professionals. Boat shows are crowded and time is limited. Have a list of questions in advance. These could include questions about warranties, servicing, financing, training, storage and delivery.

Dress Comfortably


Continue Reading Maritime Law: Boat Show Checklist

As a maritime lawyer, I am frequently asked by private and commercial owners whether they need to register their vessels with the U.S. Coast Guard. In short, it depends.

Vessel documentation is a national form of registration that has existed for many years dating back to the 11th Act of the First Congress. Vessel documentation is a national form of registration available for vessels that measure at least five net tons and are wholly owned by a U.S. citizen or citizens. Vessel documentation provides evidence of nationality for your vessel and is used mainly for international purposes. When you document your boat with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), you receive a Certificate of Documentation (COD) which is issued by the Coast Guard’s National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC).

International waters


Continue Reading Should I document my vessel with the U.S. Coast Guard?

Obtaining a survey before purchasing a vessel is always advised. Any offer to purchase a boat should always be made contingent on a satisfactory survey and in some cases a sea trial. Courts have recognized the critical role of marine surveyors in maintaining safe sea travels.

Hull Survey vs. Full Survey

The type of survey required will depend on the boat age, condition, value, and date of last survey. It may be that a hull survey is required, or a full survey to include the rig, sails and engine and the equipment on board. If the engines form a substantial part of the value of the boat, you may want to consider having a separate detailed engineer’s report. Or if there are particular technical aspects which you require verification on, make sure to instruct the surveyor on these aspects.

Seaworthiness


Continue Reading Maritime Law: Why is a Survey Needed When Purchasing a Vessel?

Recreational boat owners in Florida are required to either register their vessels with the state of Florida or document their vessels with the U.S. Coast Guard. There are many factors to consider when choosing between state registration and U.S. documentation.

Registration

Chapter 328, Florida Statutes, designates that DHSMV is responsible for issuing vessel registrations and titles. Applications for titles and registrations must be filed at a county tax collector or license plate agent office. The certificate of registration must be carried on board the vessel whenever it is in operation and the decal must be displayed near the registration number on the port (left) side of the vessel. You can find more information on the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website.

Documentation


Continue Reading Maritime Law: What You Need to Know About Registration and Documentation Before Buying a Boat

In order to better protect yourself and your property, it’s a good idea to have a discussion with your insurance agent and/or your maritime lawyer about your vessel, its intended use and operation, the potential for claims and the marine insurance coverage that may be available to you.

Hidden Exclusions

Many people with significant claims after an accident, that could and/or should have been insured against and covered from, are not covered because of an exclusion or limitation that was buried in the insurance policy. These denials often could have been avoided had the person purchased a more favorable insurance policy from a different carrier. The insurance policy need not cover just the vessel, but also needs to cover you, and your passengers, in the event of an accident. If there is a serious accident, any good personal injury attorney will want to go beyond the policy limits and try to hold you personally liable.

Who, What, Where


Continue Reading Maritime Law: What You Need to Know About Insurance Before Buying a Boat