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Public Regulation And Control Over Boats

Pleasure crafts, depending on their size, type, and place of navigation are governed by federal statutes, which apply to public as well as private vessels of the United States.  Special statutes regulating motor boats are enacted to promote safety in recreational boating.  There are various state statutes that govern pleasure craft on the navigable waters of the state.  State laws and local laws, however, shall not be contradict federal rules on the same subject.

Federal statute authorize customs officers to board “any vessel” at any place in the United States or within customs waters to examine the vessel’s manifest and other papers.  The officers can search any vessel, stop such vessels and use all necessary force to compel compliance.  Likewise, officers of the Treasury Department are statutorily empowered to hail, stop, and board “any vessel” in the enforcement of the navigation laws and to arrest any person violating such laws.

The State Recreational Boating Safety Program carried out by the federal Secretary of Transportation encourages greater participation and uniformity in the various state boating safety efforts and to permit states to assume a greater share of boating safety education, assistance, and enforcement activities.  The Secretary establishes guidelines and standards for the program.  The program includes  education, assistance, and enforcement activities conducted for maritime casualty prevention, reduction, and reporting for recreational boating.

The enforcement of the federal navigation and boating laws on and under the high seas and waters subject to federal jurisdiction are the responsibility of the Coast Guard.  The Coast guard is empowered to make inquiries, examinations, inspections, searches, seizures, and arrests.  State statutes and local ordinances empower various agencies and officials to enforce state boating laws and local boating laws.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is a nonmilitary organization composed of motorboat and yacht owners and other qualified persons.   Some of the services provided by the Auxiliary are safety checks, harbor patrols, safe boating courses, search and rescue, and marine environmental protection.  The purpose of the Auxiliary is to assist the Coast Guard as authorized by the Commandant, in performing any Coast Guard function, power, duty, role, mission, or operation authorized by law.  The Coast Guard may utilize for any purpose incident to carrying out its functions and duties, any motorboat, yacht, aircraft, or radio station placed at its disposition for any of such purposes by any member of the Auxiliary.  The four cornerstones of the Auxiliary are Member Services, Operations and Marine Safety, Recreational Boating Safety, and Fellowship.

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