On July 1, 2016, a Florida law (HB 703 2016) went into effect that allowed boat owners to get a safety equipment inspection by water police in the state. If they passed the inspection, they could then get a decal from the inspecting officer which they could mount on their boat (location to be done under specific instructions). With the decal, the police cannot stop a boat just to do a safety inspection (unless they see something not in compliance). Currently, the decals have no expiration date.
The bill was passed as a result of State Representative Rick Workman’s efforts after he was stopped on his boat several times over the course of a year for safety inspections and he got tired of it.
After being asked by a reader about the decal they read about in SOUTHWINDS last year, I went on the website of the main marine patrol in Florida, the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission (www.myfwc.com). After extensive searching, I found nothing on their website that even mentioned the inspection and decal, so I called the FWC and was told that FWC officers and local marine patrol officers should be able to inspect your boat and should have decals with them.
I asked why there was nothing on the FWC website mentioning this, and the FWC officer replied that there was no interest in the inspection decals, so they didn’t put anything up on the site. I wondered if there was little interest, because most people are unaware of it, partially because the FWC isn’t promoting it. Maybe they don’t want people to know about it, although promoting boating inspections should be a good thing.
In the long run, if everyone got there boat inspected and had a decal, that would be good for general boating safety, although the law says there is no expiration date on them, which can be a problem, as an inspection that’s old and/or the boat has changed hands could mean it needs to have its safety equipment checked out. It would probably be a good idea to require that it is only good for a limited period of time, before another inspection is required with a new decal.
You can read the law yourself by searching online for “Florida HB703 2016” (go to the last dated and most recent PDF of the bill text and go to 327.70 (2) (a)). BoatUS has created a two-page document specifying the details of the inspection and decal. Read or download the pages here.
The law has nothing to do with the right of the Coast Guard to stop and inspect a boat for safety equipment. They can stop a boat whenever they want for almost any reason they want.
If you have asked a marine patrol officer for a safety inspection and decal, but had problems getting it, please let us know. Contact the editor.