USCG Auxiliary Vessel Safety Inspections

Safety on the water is top priority. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is committed to this goal and they offer free vessel safety inspections to help boaters stay safe.

If your vessel passes inspection, you’ll receive a decal that notifies law enforcement that your boat has already been inspected and complies with state and federal laws. If your vessel does not pass an inspection, the inspector will not issue a fine. Instead, they will provide a list of problems and tips on how to fix shortcomings. These free checks can save lives, money, and time.

Here’s a list of items that are checked:

  1. Proper display of registration numbers. US Coast Guard documented boats do not have to display state registration numbers.
  2. Registration and Documentation papers. Registration or Documentation papers must be on board and available. Documentation numbers must be permanently marked on a visible part of the interior structure. The documented boat’s name and hailing port must be displayed on the exterior hull in letters not less than 4 inches in height. To be documented a boat must be 5 net tons or greater.
  3. Appropriate PFDs. PFDs must be accessible there must be one suitable PFD available for each person aboard. Vessels over 16 feet must have one throwable on board.
  4. Visual Distress Signals. Recreational boats 16 feet and over must carry a minimum of either 1) three day and three night pyrotechnic devices, 2) one day non-pyrotechnic device (flag) and one night non-pyrotechnic device (auto SOS light) or 3) a combination of 1) and 2).
  5. Fire extinguishers. The specific requirements vary depending on boat size and whether or not a fixed system is installed. See the USCG Auxiliary website for details.
  6. Ventilation. Boats with gasoline engines in closed compartments, built after 1 August 1980 must have a powered ventilation system. Those built prior to that date must have natural or powered ventilation. Boats with closed fuel tank compartments built after 1 August 1978 must meet requirements by displaying 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. Inboard and inboard/outboard boats powered by gas engines must have a backfire flame control device installed.
  8. Sound producing device. All vessels must carry a sound producing device capable of a 4 second blast audible for ½ mile.
  9. Navigation lights. All boats (including dinghies) must be able to 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 on board a current copy of the Navigation Rules.
  14. State and Local Requirements.
    • Boater education card (if operating in WA waters and operator is 50 years of age or younger)
    • CO warning sticker
  15. Overall vessel condition.
    • Clean bilge
    • Deck free of hazards
    • Safe galley and heating systems

For more information, or to schedule a free safety inspection, go to