Boat Size

Why Boat Size Matters to the US Coast Guard

Why does the United States Coast Guard care about boat size? The main reason is that the size determines eligibility to register with the USCG. But the number of passengers that can safely ride on the boat at one time also plays a role. This is for the protection of the boat owner, as well as anyone who boards his or her boat. Understanding these regulations is part of being a responsible boat owner. This handy guide contains all of the information you need. 

Eligibility to Register Your Boat with the United States Coast Guard

If you want to register your boat with the USCG, it must meet certain size requirements. The main one to keep in mind is that the vessel must weigh at least 5 net tons. This is a volume measurement, not a weight measurement. In general, if the boat is 27 feet or longer, you can assume that it weighs 5 net tons or more. However, if you would like accurate measurements, you can procure them before pursuing U.S. Coast Guard registration. 

Boat Capacity

Another reason why the USCG cares about the size of your boat is for a safe passenger capacity. Many boats have a capacity plate that gives you this information. If yours does not, there is a simple calculation you can use to figure this out. The formula is as follows:

Number of people = vessel length (ft.) x vessel width (ft.) ÷ 15 

You can use the measurements of your boat and a basic calculator to determine the answer, which is the maximum number of passengers that can be on board your boat at any given time. For example, a boat that is 4 feet wide and 12 feet long has a maximum capacity of 3 passengers. This number allows you to safely transport people, as well as cargo, safety equipment, fuel, engine, and steering, as well as other necessary items you might need on the water. This number is called the Maximum Gross Load and cannot be exceeded. Doing so compromises the safety of yourself and your passengers but could also result in fines if you are caught. Look at the capacity plate for more information about the maximum gross load.

Boat Size

Factors That Play a Role in Boat Capacity

If you have a capacity plate on your boat, you may be wondering why it’s determined the way it is. The formula above is your best indicator, but there are some other factors that also play a role. Boat capacity assumes that each passenger weighs 150 pounds. That means that if any of your passengers weigh more than that, you may have to reduce the total number of individuals on board your boat at a given time. Likewise, if you are transporting heavy or additional cargo, you may not be able to transport passengers at the same time. 

Boat size is an important consideration and one to keep in mind anytime you are out on the water. Do you need more information? Contact the Vessel Documentation Online today and we will help you determine the numbers, as well as walk you through the process of registering your vessel with the United States Coast Guard.