Federal law requires engine cut-off switch for small crafts

Coast Guard Act of 2018 will apply to small recreational boats (26 feet and smaller).

NATIONWIDE—Boat manufacturers will now be required to install an engine cut-off switch for recreational vessels measuring 26 feet or smaller and capable of developing at least 115 pounds of static thrust, thanks to a piece of federal legislation recently signed into law by Pres. Donald J. Trump.

The engine cut-off switch requirement for small recreational vessels was a major provision of the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, which was signed into law by Trump on Dec. 4.

Manufacturers installing these engine cut-off switches under the new federal mandate must also meet American Boat and Yacht Council Standards, according to the Coast Guard Act. The engine cut-off switch requirement will kick in by December 2019 and applies to vessels with inboard engines, outboard motors and sterndrive engines.

“Cutoff switches save lives,” Dave Kennedy, BoatUS’s manager of government affairs, said in a released statement.

Kennedy added the Coast Guard Act also extended the vessel documentation term from one year to five years. Anyone renewing his or her vessel documentation through the Coast Guard’s National Vessel will receive a five-year certificate – instead of the usual one-year renewal – thanks to the new law.

“Making recreational-vessel documentation renewal easier by now requiring it only once every five years is a consumer-friendly move,” Kennedy said.

Also included in the most recent Coast Guard Act was the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA.

“VIDA deals with the regulation of discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels, such as ballast water and grey water discharges,” a blog about the Coast Guard Act, posted by the law firm Winston & Strawn, stated. “Among other things, VIDA makes permanent exclusions for small vessels and fishing vessels.

“VIDA also requires the U.S. Coast Guard to promulgate regulations to allow state enforcement of the federal discharge standards in lieu of state standards, requires the Environmental Protection Agency to establish standards within two years of enactment for discharges consistent with revised definitions to be followed by new Coast Guard enforcement regulations,” the blog post, written by firm partner Charlie Papavizas, continued.

The Coast Guard Act, which also provides $167 millions for three new fast response cutters, was named after Frank LoBiondo, who has served in the House of Representatives for New Jersey’s second congressional district since 1995. LoBiondo did not run for re-election in 2018, meaning he won’t return to Washington, D.C. as a representative in 2019. He served on the lower house’s Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

His congressional biography described the 12-term representative as a defender of the environment and aficionado of outdoor activities.

The Coast Guard Act, in all, authorizes $7.9 billion for operating expenses, according to LoBiondo. More than $2.5 billion in funding for construction, facilities improvements and renovation is also authorized under the Coast Guard Act.

U.S. Senators approved the Coast Guard Act by a 94-6 vote on Nov. 14. The House of Representatives agreed to senatorial amendments by voice vote on Nov. 27.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, sponsored the Coast Guard Act, which was introduced in the upper legislative house in January 2017.

Photo credit: BoatUS

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