East Hawaii News

State To Require Safety Course For Boaters

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The Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday approved of a new rule that requires boat operators to complete a boating safety course.

The land board emphasized the need for better informed boaters in Hawai`i to prevent accidents and fatalities as population and congestion on the ocean increases.

Board members also stressed the importance of understanding how to behave around protected marine species.

“There are more of us in the ocean today,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson. “It is increasingly more crowded as people are diving and paddling farther from shore. We are experiencing more and more fatal accidents in our waters.”


Seasoned boaters will be able to take equivalency exams if they feel they already understand the standard rules. New boaters have the opportunity to prove competency by taking an online course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

The course takes about 3-4 hours of instruction to complete. Costs for the courses vary; however, state officials say one free course is currently available that would satisfy the proposed requirement.

Individuals wanting more detailed instruction can take a classroom course from the US Coast Guard Auxiliary or the local US Power Squadron organizations.  These classes require a greater time commitment averaging about 12 hours.


The new rule will:

  • require a vessel operator to successfully complete a NASBLA and state-approved boating safety course to legally operate a motor vessel;
  • require anyone operating a motor vessel who is under 16 years old to be accompanied and supervised by an adult 21 years or older who holds the required boater safety education certificate;
  • establish a fine between $50 and $1,000 for violators; with an exemption for those possessing a valid license to operate a vessel issued for maritime personnel by the US Coast Guard;
  • exempt operators of vessels in Hawaii’s waters who voyage here from outside the state and remain in state waters less than 60 calendar days;
  • exempt vessel renters (for the contract period) who receive a safety briefing from the boat livery operator that is approved (for content) by the state.

The new law will go into effect 24 months after it is signed by the governor which will give the state time to develop and approve the safety courses.

There is also an exemption for vessels powered with motors under 10 horsepower and also for rental boats, as long as the operator receives a safety briefing approved by the state.



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