Effective April 20, 2022, a non-rechargeable fire extinguisher that is older than 12 years from the date of manufacture is considered expired and must be removed from service per the new U.S. Coast Guard regulation. Boaters should look for the date of manufacture, which is usually stamped on the bottle next to the UL label; for example, “09” means 2009 and is thus older than 12 years.

There are two types of fire extinguishers – a non-rechargeable fire extinguisher, also referred to as a “disposable” fire extinguisher, which is intended for one-time use only; and the rechargeable fire extinguisher, which is recharged once used and requires annual servicing by a technician.

When purchasing a fire extinguisher, the label on the bottle should say “Marine Type – USCG Approved.” Labeling on the newer 5-B, 10-B, and 20-B non-rechargeable fire extinguishers will also say “this product must be removed from service within 12 years after date of manufacturing.” It should be noted that the older B-I and B-II rated extinguishers are being phased out for the 5-B, 10-B, and 20-B rated fire extinguishers. The number in this new B rating refers to the size in square feet; 1-B equals one square foot; thus a 20-B extinguisher would be able to extinguish 20 square feet of flammable liquid fire.

The new established expiration date for non-rechargeable extinguishers does not change the quantity of fire extinguishers required to be carried. Boaters are required to carry a specified quantity based on certain criteria, including boat size and age of the vessel. For example, boats with a model year of 2018 or newer that are 40 feet up to 65 feet in length must carry 5-B or 20-B rated fire extinguishers with a total quantity of three (3). Boats within the same size range that are model years 1953 to 2017 may carry either 5-B, 20-B, or B-I, B-II rated fire extinguishers with a total quantity of three (3). Boaters should note that a 10-B extinguisher only counts as one 5-B even though it contains more extinguishing agent. See the Coast Guard website for required type and number of extinguishers per vessel size and age.

All recreational boats that have permanently installed fuel tank(s), or spaces capable of trapping fumes such as compartments and living spaces are required to carry marine fire extinguishers. Fire Extinguishers should be mounted or easily accessible at points of egress, at the helm, near the engine, and fuel supply such as the galley.

Boaters are reminded to check the dates on their fire extinguishers; make sure the lock pin is in place, and there is no corrosion. Dry chemical fire extinguishers should be rocked upside down to loosen any clumps that may have formed. If the pressure gauge shows that the charge is in the red zone, the disposable fire extinguisher must be replaced. Rechargeable extinguishers must be serviced and tagged.