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Disclaimer:   I am not a spokesperson for the US Coast Guard or ABYC. For an official interpretation of regulations or standards you must contact the US Coast Guard or other organization referenced..   More.....

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Coast Guard Certification and Approval

The US Coast Guard does not certify or approve recreational boats! 

Do not put on your web site that your boats are US Coast Guard Approved or that your factory is US Coast Guard Inspected!

I keep getting asked, how do I get my boats Coast Guard Certified, or Coast Guard Approved? Or they ask, how do I get the Coast Guard to inspect my boats? The Coast Guard does not certify or approve recreational boats. They will send a representative to your factory to help you comply with the regulations, but it is not an inspection, and it does not mean your boats are Approved or Certified. The terms US Coast Guard Certified and US Coast Guard Approved have specific meanings defined by law.  Later I will explain what they mean, but first I will talk about how this affects recreational boats.

For those of you not in the USA, other countries do this differently. In Europe boats must be certified by a Notifying Body to carry the CE Mark, in order to be sold. Go to
Ike's List

and find the link under Regulations, Standards: International.  In Canada they must meet the
Canadian Standards

Recreational boats are certified, but it is the builder or manufacturer who must certify that their boats meet the requirements of the Federal Regulations.  If your boat has to meet some of the Federal Regulations (not necessarily all) then you must put a label on it that says:

"The manufacturer certifies that this boat meets the Federal Regulations in effect on the date of certification." 


See Labels

See Labels Demystified
for which rules require a certification label.

So, if you have to meet loading and flotation, it must have a certification label, or if you must meet fuel and electrical, you must have a certification label, and so on.

Where do I get the labels, and where do I put the label?  You simply have them made.  Anyone who makes labels can make them for you.  Just as with
capacity labels,

you have them made. They must have the correct wording.  That's about it. They can go anywhere on the boat. No location is specified. They can be combined with the capacity labels, or they can be separate.  

You should of course, put them where they can be seen, somewhere near the helm. They do no good if they are in a locker or behind something. I have found them in all kinds of places which I find baffling. Why? Put them near the helm where people can see them. They can be combined with the capacity labels as well.
capacity labels

Now what does Coast Guard certified mean? Some commercial vessels are required by law to be
 inspected by the US Coast Guard.

If they pass the inspection they are given a certificate of inspection which the owner must then post in a place where it can be seen by passengers. This is Coast Guard Certification. A few other items get Coast Guard Certification, such as
MSDs, (marine toilets)

The manufacturer submits the specifications for the item and if it meets the specs the Coast Guard issues a certification.

So how is that different from
Coast Guard Approval

Approval applies to certain items you must carry on board a boat. This includes things such as Fire Extinguishers, Personal Flotation Devices, and visual distress signals.  Also some courses and schools for professional mariners are Coast Guard Approved.  But recreational boats are not and even use of the words Coast Guard approved can get you cited for violating the law.

Approval means that the Coast Guard has not only looked at the item and inspected it, but also tested it to see that it meets all of the regulations that apply.  The testing is usually contracted out to an independent laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories.

For something to be Certified or Approved there must be a law or regulation that specifies what items must be certified or approved, and the process for getting them certified or approved. Recreational boats on the other hand are self certified. To attempt otherwise would require an army of engineers or inspectors because there are over 4000 boat manufacturers and hundreds more importers of boats in the USA. The manpower and man hours that would be needed to accomplish this would be staggering.  About 600,000 boats are sold every year in the USA, so self certification is the best way to be sure they all meet the Federal safety standards. 2010 All rights reserved.   Revised 10/17/2018

American Boat And Yacht Council  Boat Design Net  Wooden Boat Foundation
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