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Vessel Safety Check

Having a reliable boat helps assure you'll have a fun-filled and safe day on the water

The Vessel Safety Check (VSC) Program is:

  • a free and voluntary inspection service

  • offered in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxilary 


Our certified examiners check to see if you meet all federal and state regulations.

If your boat meets compliance, you'll receive a decal to display on your vessel, showing that you achieved a satisfactory inspection.

You may wish to:



VSC Checklist

  1. Registration Number Displayed


  • Be permanently attached to each side of the forward half of the boat

  • Be block characters, not less than three (3) inches high, in a contrasting color

  • Have a space or hyphen separating letters from the numbers (Ex. SC 1234 AB or SC-1234-AB)

  • Have SC tax sticker placed according to State policy.


2. Registration / Documentation​


  • Be on board and available

  • Have documentation numbers permanently marked on a visible part of the interior

  • Have documented boat's name and home port displayed on the exterior hull, with letters not less than 4 inches in height (To be documented a boat must be 5 net tons or greater.)

3. Personal Flotation Devices – PFD (Life Jackets)​


  • Be U.S. Coast Guard approved,

  • Be in good serviceable condition

  • Be the suitable size and properly fitting for each person on the boat

  • Be "readily accessible" and not stored in unopened packaging (wearable PFDs)

  • Be “immediately available” if a throwable devices such as a life ring.

  • Be worn by personal watercraft riders and indicate impact rating.

  • Include at least one Type IV for boats 16 Feet or longer.

4. Visual Distress Signals (VDS)

Recreational boats 16 feet and over used on coastal waters or the Great Lakes, must:

  • Carry a minimum of

1) 3 day and 3 night pyrotechnic devices

2) 1 day non-pyrotechnic device (flag) and 1 night non-pyrotechnic device (auto SOS light) or

3) a combination of 1) and 2).

Recreational boats less than 16 feet used on coastal waters or the Great Lakes, must:

  • Carry night visual distress signals when operating from sunset to sunrise

Recreational boats operating on inland waters, are recommended to:

  • Have some means of making a suitable day and night distress signal. The number and type of signals is best judged by considering conditions under which the boat will be operating.


Alternatives to pyrotechnic devices (flares) include:

5. Fire Extinguishers

Are required if the boat has any of the following:

  • Inboard engine(s)

  • Closed compartments that store portable fuel tanks

  • Double bottom hulls not completely sealed or not completely filled with flotation materials

  • Closed living space

  • Closed stowage compartments that contain flammable materials or

  • Permanently installed fuel tanks



  • Be readily accessible and verified as serviceable.



6. Ventilation

Boats with gasoline engines in closed compartments built after August 1, 1980, must

  • Have a powered ventilation system

 Built prior to that date, must:

  • Have natural or powered ventilation.


Boats with closed fuel tank compartments built after August 1, 1978, must:

  • Display a "certificate of compliance

       Boats built before that date, must:

  • Have either natural or powered ventilation in the fuel tank compartment.

7.  Backfire Flame Control
     All gasoline powered inboard/outboard or inboard      motor boats, must:

  • Be equipped with an approved back

  • fire flame control device.


8. Sound Producing Devices / Bell

  • Carry a sound producing device (whistle, horn, siren, etc.) capable of a 4-second blast audible for ½ mile.

  • Also have a bell, if the boat is 12 meters (39.4 ft.) or more in length

9. Navigation Lights

  • Display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and in conditions of reduced visibility.


Boats 16 feet or more in length, must:

  • Have properly installed, working navigation lights and an all-around anchor light capable of being lit independently from the red/green/white "running" lights.

10. Pollution Placard
      Boats 26 feet and over with a machinery                   compartment, must:

  • Display an oily waste "pollution" placard.

11. MARPOL Trash Placard
      Boats 26 feet and over in length, must:

  • Display a "MARPOL" trash placard.


       Boats 40 feet and over, must:

  • Also display a written trash disposal plan.

12. Marine Sanitation Devices

  • Any installed toilet must be a Coast Guard approved device.

  • Overboard discharge outlets must be capable of being sealed.

13. Navigation Rules
      Boats 39.4 feet and over, must:

  • Have a current copy of the Navigation Rules on board.

14. State and/or Local Requirements

  • Meet the requirements of the state in which the boat is being examined

15. Overall Vessel Condition

Have a Deck Free of Hazards and Clean Bilge

  • Be free from fire hazards

  • Be in good overall condition

  • With bilges reasonably clean and visible hull structure generally sound.

  • Not have engine horsepower exceed that shown on capacity plate.

  • Not use automobile parts on boat engines


Have Safe Electrical and Fuel System

  • Be protected by fuses or manual reset circuit breakers.

  • Switches and fuse panels protected from rain or water spray.

  • Wiring in good condition, properly installed and with no exposed areas or deteriorated insulation

  • Batteries secured and terminals covered to prevent accidental arcing

  • If installed, self-circling or kill switch mechanism must be in proper working order. (Required on all PWCs.)

  • Portable fuel tanks (normally 7 gallon capacity or less) must be constructed of non-breakable material and free of corrosion and leaks

  • All vents must be capable of being closed. The tank must be secured and have a vapor-tight, leak-proof cap.

  • Permanent fuel tank must be properly ventilated.

Have Safe Galley and Heating Systems

  • System and fuel tanks must be properly secured with no flammable materials nearby.

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