Mandatory Boating Safety Education Q&A

Beginning 11/10/2014, all individuals who operate a motorized vessel in Hawaii’s
State waters must have taken a boating safety course and show proof of certification.

The text of this Mandatory Boater Education Rule can be accessed at: http://files.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dobor/rules/amend/Amend-13-244-15-5.pdf

1. Why does DLNR believe the mandatory education rule is necessary? 

2. When will the rule be enforced? 

3. Who does this rule apply to? 

4. What types of vessels does the rule apply to? 

5. Where is it applicable? 

6. Who is exempt? 

7. How will it be enforced? 

8. What is the penalty for a violation of this requirement? 

9. What are the compliance requirements for an acceptable course? 

10. Does the Windward Community College thrill craft certification class qualify as an acceptable course? 

11. What Internet courses are or will be available? 

12. Will there be an independent or home-study course available? 

13. What about classroom courses or a course that I have taken previously? 

14. What happens after I take and complete a course? 

Q1. Why does DLNR believe the mandatory education rule is necessary? 

A. A study released in 2007 by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) showed that states with the longest history of mandatory education had the lowest boating fatality rates. For most of the boating safety community, this study was conclusive evidence that mandatory boating education saves lives. Statistics are provided in the NASBLA press release entitled “Boating Education Requirements Do Make a Difference.” The study also indicated that the longer boating education requirements are in place, the lower the fatality rates become. The states with no boating education requirements in place have the highest average fatality rates. The states that have had boating education requirements in place for more than 20 years have an average fatality rate of 3.89 persons per 100,000 registered boats. Hawaii is mentioned in the study as a state that has some form of mandatory education (for all thrill craft operators only) with a fatality rate of 10.46 per 100,000 recreational vessels. Hawaii ranked fifth on the list of highest fatality rates in the year the study was finalized. In 2011, Hawaii had a fatality rate of 44 per 100,000 vessels, second worse in the nation. The Department’s goal in establishing this new rule is to improve on-the-water safety for all ocean users. The proposed mandatory education requirement for boating on State waters is very similar in nature and intent to the licensing of drivers wishing to operate a motor vehicle on our city streets and highways. Although the perception is that the ocean is a very big area, there are many times and many waterways where boats come in close proximity to other vessels, the shoreline, swimmers, divers, etc. and every operator should know the established rules of the road to avoid causing injury or death. 

Q2. When will the rule be enforced? 

A. As of November 10, 2014. Since that date, boaters have been required to show proof of certification to enforcement officers upon demand. 

Q3. Who does this rule apply to? 

A. The rule applies to all boaters unless they and/or the vessels being used fall under one of the exemptions mentioned in the new rule (see “Who is exempt” below). Anyone who is capable of successfully completing a NASBLA and State approved boating safety course may operate a vessel. However, operators under 16 years of age (in addition to having the required certificate of completion) must be directly supervised by an adult 21 years of age or older who also holds the required certificate of completion. 

Q4. What types of vessels does the rule apply to? 

A. Any power driven vessel propelled by a motor greater than 10 horsepower, even vessels propelled primarily by wind/sail that are equipped with an auxiliary engine. 

Q5. Where is it applicable? 

A. All navigable State waters from the high water mark on shore to three miles at sea. 

Q6. Who is exempt? 

A. The rule provides an exemption for individuals who: 1) possess a valid merchant mariner credential to operate a vessel issued by the United States Coast Guard, (2) operate a thrill craft in a commercial thrill craft zone as authorized by the State, 3) operate a vessel powered by a motor rated at 10 horsepower or less, 4) are on a voyage originating out of State and will remain in the State less than 60 calendar days, or 5) received a safety briefing approved by the State and are operating a rented vessel. As of this writing, the rule does not provide exemptions for ocean safety personnel, federal/state/county personnel, lifeguards, marine enforcement, researchers, etc. 

NOTE: A MMC can be presented to enforcement personnel on request as proof of compliance. Individuals with a MMC may request a laminated, State-issued Boater Safety Education Card (BSEC) as proof of compliance with the Mandatory Education Rule by sending a copy of the MMC (photo, MMC-holder’s signature page, limitations page and USCG signature page) via e-mail, fax or post to:

Clifford Inn
333 Queen Street, Suite 300
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Fax: (808) 587-1977

Clifford.G.Inn@hawaii.gov

Please note that the expiration date of the BSEC will correspond with the expiration date on the MMC.  The MMC must be valid to claim an exemption.  When you renew your MMC you may request another BSEC through DOBOR.  Unfortunately, HAR 13-244-15.5 does not make accommodations for expired MMCs.   

Q7. How is it being enforced? 

A. “§13-244-15.5 Operation of power driven vessels. (d) A person who is operating a power driven vessel on any waters of the State and who is stopped by a law enforcement officer shall present to the officer, upon request, a certificate of completion required by this rule or acceptable evidence of exemption from the required certificate. Failure to present a certificate of completion or acceptable evidence of exemption shall constitute a violation of this rule, unless the person presents the required certificate or evidence of exemption to a court of law and satisfies the court that this person held a proper certificate or was exempt at the time the person was asked to produce the certificate. (e) A person who alters, forges, counterfeits or falsifies a certificate or other document used as evidence, or who possesses a certificate or other document that has been altered, forged, counterfeited or falsified, or who loans or permits that person’s certificate or other document to be used by another person, shall be in violation of this rule. 

A blue, DLNR stamp of approval on a course provider’s web site and on a boating safety card is your guarantee of compliance. It is circular in design and blue in color. It features a stylized boat sail and contains the words “Course Approved for State of Hawai`i by DLNR.  Enforcement personnel will be looking for this stamp of approval on your credentials. 

Q8. What is the penalty for a violation of this requirement? 

A. Any person violating this rule shall be fined not less than $50 and not more than $1000 or sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than thirty days, or both, for each violation; the court may also prevent an individual from operating a vessel in State waters of the State for up to 30 days. 

Q9. What are the compliance requirements for an acceptable course? 

A. Acceptable courses must be NASBLA and State of Hawaii approved.  Approximately 85% of every NASBLA and state approved boating safety course must contain the same content and meet the same presentation standards dictated by NASBLA. The content for the remaining 15% of a NASBLA approved state boating course is set by the regulating state. Each state has its own rules and regulations regarding vessel registration, prohibitions, carriage requirements, exemptions, enforcement, etc. The collection of rules particular to that state is what is known as the “state specific information.” Incorporating the state specific information into the NASBLA approved course offered by a course provider creates a hybrid course tailored for use by that specific state.   

Q10. Does the Windward Community College (WCC) thrill craft certification class qualify as an acceptable course? 

A. Yes and no. It depends if you are operating a thrill craft (aka jet ski, personal watercraft) or a boat.  If you took the course prior to 5/31/14 and are piloting a thrill craft the answer is yes.  On 11/13/14 DLNR established an exemption for anyone who has taken a thrill craft operator’s course from WCC in the past and only operates a thrill craft.  Visit: http://files.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dobor/rules/amend/Amend-13-256-3-4.pdf for the text of the exemption.  If you are piloting a boat, however, the answer is no.  Up until 5/31/14, the WCC class was not NASBLA approved and that is a requirement of the new mandatory education rule.  If you took the WCC course after 5/31/14 the answer is yes.  As of that date, the WCC thrill craft operator’s class became NASBLA approved and all graduates of that program after that date are certified to operate both a thrill craft and a boat.  Please note that passing the tow-in-surfing certification class is still required to tow-in surf and request “T” stickers for your vessel.   

Q11. What Internet courses are or will be available? 

A. DOBOR is fostering a proliferation of courses so that Hawaii residents have an abundance of choices for acquiring a boating certificate of completion. Choices will include Internet-based, home study and classroom courses. One fully compliant class available via the Internet through BoatUS.org is free. At completion of the BoatUS.org course, the student can print a certificate of completion that will be acceptable for compliance. If unable to print the certificate, BoatUS.org will send a copy of your certificate to you for $5.00. 

Another online course available through Boat-Ed.com is also compliant. An Internet course offered by BOATERexam.com is slated to be ready for use by Hawaii boaters in the future. 

COMPLIANT INTERNET COURSES AVAILABLE NOW INCLUDE: 

Boat-Ed.com 
BoatUS.org (free) 

For boaters who completed the Boat-Ed.com on-line course: 

If you successfully completed the Boat-Ed.com Internet course, you received a paper certificate and a plastic card.  If your plastic boater ID card already bears the blue course approval stamp, no other action is required. Display your credentials to all enforcement personnel to demonstrate that you have taken a State-required boating safety course. 

If you took the course prior to 1/1/14 and your card does not bear the course approval stamp, you may request a stamp to affix to your existing card.  To do this, send a copy of your certificate with a request for a blue course approval sticker via e-mail, post or fax to clifford.g.inn@hawaii.gov, Clifford Inn, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, 333 Queen Street, Suite 300, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, (fax) 587-1977. 

Be sure to provide a return mailing address if it differs from what is printed on your certificate and your card or you do not have a mail receptacle. 

Even if your credentials do have the blue course approval stamp, as an option, you can also request a State-issued, laminated Boater Safety Education Card.  Follow the same procedure.  Send a copy of your certificate to DOBOR along with your request.   

Both the plastic boater ID card from Boat-Ed with the course approval stamp and the State-issued Boater Safety Education Card will be valid when DLNR begins enforcing the Mandatory Education Rule. 

For boaters who completed the BoatUS.org on-line course: 

If you successfully completed the BoatUS.org Internet course, you were able to print out your own certificate of completion.  It features a cutout boater ID card that bears the blue course approval stamp in the top right corner (of the cutout card).  You may cut out the ID card portion of your certificate and keep it on board when you operate your vessel.  No other action is required.  Display your credentials to all enforcement personnel to demonstrate that you have taken a State-required boating safety course. 

If you completed the BoatUS.org course prior to 1/1/2014 your certificate may not have the blue course approval stamp or the cutout card.  You may send a copy of your certificate either by e-mail to clifford.g.inn@hawaii.gov or by post to Clifford Inn, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, 333 Queen Street, Suite 300, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813 to request a State-issued, laminated Boater Safety Education Card.   

Be sure to provide a return mailing address if it differs from what is printed on your certificate or you do not have a mail receptacle.  Please make sure you also sign your certificate prior to sending it.   

DOBOR will send a booklet of the State specific information and a Boater Safety Education Card that bears the blue course approval stamp. 

Even if your credentials have the blue course approval stamp, as an option, you can also request a State-issued, laminated Boater Safety Education Card.  Follow the same procedure.  Send a copy of your certificate to DOBOR along with your request.   

Both the paper boater ID card from BoatUS Foundation with the course approval stamp and the State-issued Boater Safety Education Card are valid. 

Q12. Will there be an independent or home-study course available? 

A. The Boat Hawaii manual is now available for use as a home study course that can be completed with a proctored test arranged with DOBOR staff. The course is free.  To request the course manuals as study guides, contact Clifford Inn via e-mail to clifford.g.inn@hawaii.gov, by fax to 808-587-1977 or via mail to the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, 333 Queen Street, Suite 300, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813 and provide a return mailing address.  When you are ready to take your final examination, follow instructions in the packet to schedule your test.   

Q13. What about classroom courses or a course that I have taken previously? 

A. DOBOR will make use of classroom courses that are approved by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and are already servicing Hawaii residents. Three basic boating courses exist that fit into this category. US Coast Guard Auxiliary (USCG Aux) offers two courses throughout the islands, About Boating Safety (ABS) and Boating Skills and Seamanship (BSS). The US Power Squadrons (USPS) offers America’s Boating Course (ABC) only on Oahu through the Hawaii Sail and Power Squadron and the Honolulu Sail and Power Squadron. 

DOBOR distributed the “module” of State specific rules to all NASBLA approved courses for Hawaii. The course providers (on the list of compliant classroom courses that follows) have incorporated the module into existing course offerings and are now considered compliant with the mandatory education rule. 

Anyone who has already passed a US Coast Guard Auxiliary or US Power Squadron course prior to incorporation of the State specific content may be able to take an abbreviated course just on the materials in the module of State specific information. This should greatly reduce the time and cost to comply with the new rule. Please check with local representatives of these boating safety programs to see if you qualify. 

PLEASE DO NOT SEND USCG AUX OR USPS CREDENTIALS TO DOBOR TO REQUEST A DLNR/DOBOR BOATER SAFETY EDUCATION CARD.  You can update these types of credentials only through a USCG Aux or Power Squadron compliance course.   

To search for a USCG Aux class near you, visit: http://cgaux.org/boatinged/class_finder/index.php 

If you have taken a NASBLA approved course in another State with a mandatory education requirement, you may be able to cite “reciprocity.”  Request a laminated, State-issued Boater Safety Education Card (BSEC) as proof of compliance by sending a copy of your credentials via e-mail, fax or post to:

Clifford Inn
333 Queen Street, Suite 300
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Fax: (808) 587-1977

Clifford.G.Inn@hawaii.gov

COMPLIANT CLASSROOM COURSES AVAILABLE NOW INCLUDE: 

About Boating Safety (ABS) and Boating Skills and Seamanship (BSS) courses offered by all US Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas in the State of Hawaii. 

America’s Boating Course (ABC) offered by the Hawaii Sail and Power Squadron, Island of Oahu. 

America’s Boating Course (ABC) offered by the Honolulu Sail and Power Squadron, Island of Oahu. 

Boat Hawaii offered by Windward Community College and partnering community colleges.  As of 5/31/14, Windward Community College and partnering community colleges throughout the State are also offering a basic boating safety course that is fully approved for Hawaii.  Contact WCC on Oahu for scheduling at 808-235-7433.   

Boat Hawaii offered by Kauai Lifeguard Association, Island of Kauai.   

Boat Hawaii offered by Maui Trailer Boat Club, Island of Maui.   

Boat Hawaii offered by Kama`aina Kids, Island of Oahu. 

Q14. What happens after I take and complete a course? 

A. For your card/certificate to be accepted by enforcement personnel as proof of compliance after 11/10/14, it should bear the blue stamp that indicates the course you took is approved for the State of Hawaii by DLNR.  As of this publication date, all of the aforementioned approved boating safety courses are issuing certificates of completion and credentials that bear the blue course approval stamp.   

The blue, DLNR stamp of approval on a boating safety card is your guarantee that you are compliant. It is circular in design and blue in color. It features a stylized boat sail and contains the words “Course Approved for State of Hawai`i by DLNR.” 

You have the option of requesting an additional proof of compliance, a Boater Safety Education Card issued by DLNR/DOBOR.  Please refer to question #11 on how to request a card.   

If approached by DLNR enforcement personnel on the water or at a ramp, be prepared to make your boating safety card and a photo ID (If requested) available upon demand. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.   

This information was last updated on 11/14/14.