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Topics of interest to boat builders, repairers and owners. Subjects discussed by boating groups and forums.

On this page are issues that cause a lot of discussion pro and con in the boating community. These are my opinions. As with most things, there are two sides to every issue. I hope that these will give you food for thought and maybe contribute to a better understanding of the issues involved.

I will also post links to other online discussions or information on the subject. These will be included in the article or immediately below the article.

To print this page go to the bottom of this page and click on the link to the pdf printable versions. Please remember this is copyrighted material and if you wish to use it please e-mail me for permission.

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This is a topic duplicated on  However, I have recently seen a lot of people using these terms, especially Coast Guard Approved for almost everything on a boat.  The latest was a discussion of fuel hose.  Throughout the discussion it was constantly called Coast Guard Approved fuel hose.  So, I thought I would post this on my HOTTOPICS page to give it a little more emphasis.  This is a slightly modified version.


Coast Guard Certification and Approval

The US Coast Guard does not certify or approve recreational boats!  (and that goes for fuel hose and flotation foam too!)

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

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, visual distress signals, and backfire flame arresters.  Also some courses and schools for Coast Guard Licenses are Coast Guard Approved. This means the Coast Guard has examined the curriculum to make sure it covers all the material you must know and is taught by qualified instructors. But recreational boats are not and even use of the words Coast Guard approved can get a manufacturer 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 Coast Guard Certified or Coast Guard 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 (and most of its parts) 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.

If a manufacturer of hoses, or flotation foam, or boats, tells you or puts in their ads that their product is Coast Guard Approved, or Coast Guard certified they are making a false statement.  Under the law they could be fined.  But usually a simple letter advising them of the law gets the problem corrected. As far as I know the Coast Guard has not fined anyone for this.

But even professional mariners, mechanics and technicians, let alone marketers and brokers toss these terms around without knowing what they really mean. I have even encountered marine surveyors who don't understand the difference.  So if someone tells you their product is Coast Guard approved, ask for the approval number and if they have an approval letter from the Coast Guard. Be suspicious of claims like these. The product may be in compliance with Federal safety standards.  Ask for specs. Determine for yourself if it meets the requirements.

  © 2010 All rights reserved.   Revised 03/04/2022


Links on this page will be moved to Ike's List when the topic is changed.

Hottopics! Downloadable PDF files. This is copyrighted material.  You may download and print these for your own use, or for educational purposes, but not for commercial use.

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Batteries and Chargers

Grounding. Our connection to the earth.

Grounding an Outboard

Portable Generators On boats. Pro and Con?

Carbon Monoxide:

Sophias Law and Carbon Monoxide

NPR Article on; Carbon Monoxide Poisoning From Portable Generators Proves Predictable and Deadly


Corrosion On Boats

Safe Loading and Capacity
Boat Load Capacity VS Available Seating and the Formula for Persons

How Many People Is Too Many?

Stability on Small Boats

Horsepower and repowering.

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HIN 101 For Boat Owners Rev2.

Fiberglass over wood or not?

Aluminum Tanks and Boats: To Paint or Not to Paint?

Much Ado About Ethanol

Ethanol Vs Isobutanol

American Boat And Yacht Council  Boat Design Net  Wooden Boat Foundation
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