Vessel Classifications; Required Equipment (O.C.G.A. § 52-7-8)

Legal Commentary. Regardless of what type of boat you are operating, you must have at least one Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device for each person on board. The types range from Type 1, which is an offshore life jacket with high buoyancy to type three inflatable flotation aids that work best in calmer waters. Additionally, all children 10 years or younger must wear a life jacket while on the boat at all times. Failure to abide by this Georgia law can result in serious child injury. For boats under 26 feet long, no whistle or sound producing device is required by law. However, these devices can be helpful in communicating with other boats when it is dark or visibility is low for any reason. Another measure that helps in low visibility situations is navigational lights. All motorized vessels less than 26 feet long being operated during hours of darkness or low visibility must display lights to indicate when they are moving or docked. Boats should also have a working fire extinguisher on board and ready to use. Another requirement by the law is that boats must have a ventilation system, because these systems help circulate air and thereby reduce the chance of an explosion and a potential accident.

See the full text of the statute below:

Vessel Classifications; Required Equipment (O.C.G.A. § 52-7-8)

(a) Classification. Vessels subject to the provisions of this article shall be divided into four classes as follows:

(1) Class A................................. Less than 16 feet in length

(2) Class 1.................................... 16 feet or over and less

than 26 feet in length

(3) Class 2.................................... 26 feet or over and less

than 40 feet in length

(4) Class 3................................... 40 feet or more in length

(b) Lights. Every vessel in all weathers from sunset to sunrise shall carry and exhibit lights as provided by regulations of the board.

(c) Whistle or horn. Every vessel of Class 2 or 3 shall be provided with an efficient whistle or horn or other sound-producing mechanical appliance capable of producing signals required by the rules for the prevention of collision enacted by Congress.

(d) Lifesaving devices.

(1) Every vessel shall be equipped with and carry aboard, at all times, at least one Type I, II, III, or V (hybrid) personal flotation device for each person on board; provided, however, Type V (hybrid) devices are acceptable only when worn and securely fastened. In addition to the individual personal flotation device, each vessel 16 feet or more in length, except for canoes and kayaks, must at all times be equipped with at least one Type IV (throwable) device.

(2) No person may use a vessel upon the waters of this state unless the personal flotation devices as required in paragraph (1) of this subsection are readily accessible to the occupants of the vessel, are in good and serviceable condition, are legibly marked with the United States Coast Guard approved number, and are of an appropriate size for the occupants of the vessel for whom they are intended; provided, however, that provisions of this subsection shall not apply to racing sculls, racing shells, and racing sweeps.

(3) No person shall operate a moving vessel upon the waters of this state with a child under age ten on board such vessel unless the child is wearing an appropriately sized personal flotation device, as required by this subsection to be on board the vessel. This requirement shall not apply when the child is within a fully enclosed roofed cabin or other fully enclosed roofed compartment or structure on the vessel.

(e) Fire extinguishers.

(1) Every mechanically propelled Class A and Class 1 vessel, constructed so as to have enclosed areas which permit entrapment of gases or vapors, shall carry aboard one Type B-I United States Coast Guard approved hand portable fire extinguisher unless there is a United States Coast Guard approved fixed fire-extinguishing system installed in the machinery space. When such a fixed fire-extinguishing system is installed in the machinery space, no hand portable fire extinguisher will be required.

(2) Every mechanically propelled Class 2 vessel, regardless of construction, shall carry aboard two Type B-I or one Type B-II United States Coast Guard approved hand portable fire extinguisher. When a United States Coast Guard approved fixed fire-extinguishing system is installed in the machinery space, one less Type B-I hand portable fire extinguisher is required.

(3) Every mechanically propelled Class 3 vessel, regardless of construction, shall carry aboard three Type B-I or one Type B-I and one Type B-II United States Coast Guard approved hand portable fire extinguisher. When a United States Coast Guard approved fixed fire-extinguishing system is installed in the machinery space, one less Type B-I hand portable fire extinguisher is required.

(4) The carriage of any dry stored pressure fire extinguishers not fitted with pressure gauges or indicating devices or any vaporizing liquid fire extinguishers containing carbon tetrachloride, chlorbomethane, or any other toxic vaporizing liquids is prohibited.

(5) The carriage of any United States Coast Guard approved hand portable fire extinguisher or any fixed fire extinguishing system which is not fully charged shall be prohibited.

(f) Equipment exemptions in authorized races. Subsections (c) and (e) of this Code section shall not apply to vessels while competing in any race conducted pursuant to Code Section 52-7-19 or, if such vessels are designed and intended solely for racing, while engaged in such navigation as is incidental to the tuning up of the boats and engines for the race.

(g) Flame arrester for carburetor. Every vessel shall have the carburetor or carburetors of every engine therein, except outboard motors using gasoline as fuel, equipped with an efficient United States Coast Guard approved flame arrester, backfire trap, or other similar device.

(h) Ventilation. Every such vessel, except open boats, using as fuel any liquid of a volatile nature, shall be provided with means for properly and efficiently ventilating the bilges of the engine and fuel tank compartments so as to remove any explosive or flammable gases.

(i) Rules and regulations. No person shall operate or give permission for the operation of a vessel which is not equipped as required by this article or the rules and regulations of the department made pursuant thereto.

(j) Sale of personal flotation devices. It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or offer for sale within this state any personal flotation device which is not United States Coast Guard approved unless such device is clearly marked as follows: "Notice: This personal flotation device is not United States Coast Guard approved."

(k) Definition. As used in this Code section, the words "personal flotation device" shall not include flotation devices such as plastic toys, rafts, and other devices used for recreational purposes in or around swimming pools, lakes, or beaches when such devices are easily recognizable as not being designed or intended for use as lifesaving devices.

(l) Penalty. Any person who violates this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

HISTORY: Ga. L. 1968, p. 487, § 10; Ga. L. 1973, p. 1427, § 8; Ga. L. 1975, p. 773, § 1; Ga. L. 1976, p. 1632, §§ 2, 3; Ga. L. 1977, p. 1182, §§ 4-6; Ga. L. 1978, p. 1743, § 2; Ga. L. 1982, p. 3, § 52; Ga. L. 1984, p. 1203, § 1; Ga. L. 1985, p. 149, § 52; Ga. L. 1987, p. 567, § 6; Ga. L. 1992, p. 2075, § 1; Ga. L. 1994, p. 680, § 2; Ga. L. 1996, p. 326, § 1; Ga. L. 1996, p. 1273, § 1; Ga. L. 2001, p. 1000, § 1; Ga. L. 2003, p. 481, § 2.