A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Is Big Brother targeting boaters now?

It seems like at every turn these days the federal government is trying to institute policies that create more hurdles for boaters. Last fall we learned that a federal court decision could and, now, is leading to a federal permitting process for recreational boat discharge.

More recently we discovered that the Department of Homeland Security is discussing the idea of mandatory licensing for boaters. The proposal is generating considerable debate among boating interests – like the heated exchange of press releases between BoatU.S. and Sea Tow International. The subject also is appearing on other industry blogs.

The federal government is trying to use boater safety as well as national security to justify the mandatory licensing. A small recreational vessel could do serious damage to our naval arsenal here at home – remember the U.S.S. Cole. And who could argue with the merits of legislation that requires boaters to become educated and tested on safety before being issued a license?

The main complaint among boating circles, however, isn’t whether or not there should be mandatory education and licensing; most agree these thing benefit boating by making it safer. Rather, the debate seems to be whether or not this should be up to the federal government.

Is it in our best interest to have the federal government – known for its bloated bureaucracy – create and oversee a national boater licensing program? Or, should we continue to leave it up to the states, a growing number of which are passing their own mandatory boater education laws?

What are your thoughts?

Melanie Winters
Associate Editor
Soundings Trade Only


6 comments on “Is Big Brother targeting boaters now?

  1. bill gardella jr cmm114

    How about if the feds give the states a deadline to implement a lifetime SBC certificate ( like Ct now has) and if the state fails to act by the deadline, they are stuck with the federal version?

  2. Bill Lindsey

    Mandatory education of some sort is a good idea, but the Feds need to leave this task to the individual states. However, that is not the same as boater licensing. That is another topic entirely, in my opinion. I hold a USCG Master’s license and I’d love to see everyone on the water have a similar educational background, but that simply is’t practical. A Rules of the Road education would be a huge improvemetn, but making it a licensing thing would, in my opinion, greatly complicate matters. If they complete the course and can pass the test, God Bless ‘em, and turn them loose.

    The states are, or should be, best-equipped to handle the project of mandatory education and many have already done so with admirable results. The last thing we need is another Federal agency created to oversee this, or worse, having the Coasties take on yet one more job.

    While I’m blathering away, I’d like to once again say that I am opposed to mandatory wear of PFDs. I said so when I was the editor of Southern Boating, and I say so now as a staffer of a major boating industry firm. It’s strictly my opinion, and I do agree with having kids in PFDs at all times, along with any adults who feel the need. But we do not need to have the Federal government save us from ourselves. Most of us have the sense to issue PFDs when the situation warrants. Not all do, of course, but then again, you can’t legislate common sense.

  3. Nate K

    It’s clearly another plan devised to create more tax/fee revenue, and it’s obviously another waist of our hard earned tax payer money to even consider it.

    It’s a no brainer. Having a Federal, or State, Boating License Program would/could/will never stop a terrorist. Period! That’s as ridiculous as expecting a gun license to stop crime. The Feds and States combined can’t even control illegal immigration.

    Boating Licensing, also, would/could/will not ever make boating safer. How long have we had drivers licensing, and driver training programs? Are there still accidents? You bet there are! And always will be!

    Will newly licensed boaters gain anything through this bill except another [required] annual fee? The glaringly simple answer is NO!

  4. Dave Schoenberg

    Being a boater for over 40 years, I definetly believe that there should be a requirement by the individual States, not the Federal Gov’t., to have at least a completed Boating Coarse, such as given by the U.S. Coast Guard Aux. or the U.S. Power Squadrons. Upon completion of the coarse, you are issued a certificate, which would be reqiured by you to present, before you would be allowed to register a boat or personal watercraft and before you are allowed to operate the same. For boaters who have already owned a boat or personal watercraft for more than five years, it would be an optional requirement, unless you were involved in a boating accident within that time period.
    Having some sort of boating education and legislation before hitting the water, is long past due. The safety and the betterment of boating that would come out of this, would benefit all.

  5. Jimmy Jones

    As someone who utilizes several different lakes in different states I have noticed a definite increase in boating traffic. Boating safety is growing concern among most boaters. A license may not be the answer but it is a start. I do not believe a boating license will serve to prevent terrorism, but with the growing number of boats on the water it is necessary.
    The federal government should set up a minimum requirement and allow the states to make more stringent guidelines as the states deem necessary. If memory serves correctly the law that has the strongest restriction applies. Example the federal government sets the national speed limit for interstates and states can lower them but not raise them.
    Enforcement needs to be administered by whatever law enforcement patrols the waterways in the local state or county. Not all waterways have the Coast guard or Power Squadrons patrolling them.
    With this method at least there would be some consistency in the basic requirements nationwide. The license could be an added endorsement to your driver’s license much like a motorcycle license.
    Just one mans opinion.

  6. Bill Haimes

    The idea that a licence will enhance either security or safety is asinine. A terrorist will most likely use a stolen boat and can easily forge documents of one sort or another. Drivers drive on suspended or revoked licenses all the time. Education is the key to safety and should be administered at the state level.

    The best thing we can do for security is to get the state numbering system up to standards for the information age. A law enforcement officer should be able to access boat ownership data on a laptop just as easily as a traffic cop can check out your car. Documented vessels could be required to show their document numbers as deep sea vessels are now required to do with IMO numbers.

    Licensing is the typical “Throw out the Baby with the bath water” approach we always see from government when the actors are uneducated.

    Security of our Navy assets is well in hand. Navy has patrol units and Coast Guard is deploying new response units at major bases. The business end of an M-60 machine gun will solve most of these threats. It would not be a good idea to go joy-riding inside the 500 yard restricted zone of a military establishment or of a warship on the move.

    Lets use and improve the programs we have in place before we add another layer of bureaucracy and red tape.

    Bill Haimes

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