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
JOIN THE DLNR/DOBOR REGISTRY OF CERTIFIED VESSEL OPERATORS:
DLNR/DOBOR is developing a comprehensive database of certified boat operators for the State of Hawaii.
Once you have completed your course to become compliant with Hawaii’s Mandatory Education requirement (details available below on this page), it is strongly suggested that you enter your name and key information, and upload your credentials in the Hawaii Registry of Vessel Operators.
By joining the Registry, DLNR will always have your credentials on file. You never need to worry about losing and needing to replace your credentials. Anyone who has submitted a copy of their credential over the counter to join the registry is protected in the same way. Based on what is submitted, if you lose your original credentials, DLNR can issue you a free, Boater Safety Education Card that will allow you to operate your vessel.
The registry submission form page is secured. Your confidential information will be carefully guarded, never published and will only be accessed by DLNR management and enforcement personnel to verify your credentials.
For more information, see Question #14 at the bottom of this page or visit the Registry page.
1. Why does DLNR believe the mandatory education rule is necessary?
2. When did DLNR begin enforcement?
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 is it being 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 (WCC) thrill craft certification class qualify as an acceptable course for boat operation?
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
15. Can I use a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) to satisfy the prerequisite for a thrill craft certification class?
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. Hawai`i 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, Hawai`i 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 did DLNR begin enforcement?
A. 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 if the individual is trained in vessel operation andnavigation and is required to userstand vessel rules of the road. 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 joining the Hawaii registry of Certified Vessel Operators at: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/certified-boater-registry/ and attaching a copy of the MMC (photo, MMC-holder’s signature page, limitations page and USCG signature page).
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 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 or black in color. It features a stylized boat sail, ocean waves and the phrase “Course Approved for State of Hawai`i by DLNR.” Enforcement personnel will be looking for this stamp of approval on your credentials.
DLNR enforcement officers are empowered to perform random checks of your vessel carriage requirements and your credentials. This is done for your protection and the safety of your passengers and all other boaters and ocean users. 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. If your credentials bear the course approval stamp you will be considered compliant with the Mandatory Education rule. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.
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 Hawai`i 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 for boat operation?
A. Yes and no. It depends if you are operating a thrill craft (aka jet ski, personal watercraft) or a boat. Please keep in mind that all thrill craft are considered (Class A) boats.
If you 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. If you are piloting a boat, however, the answer may be no depending on NASBLA approval of the course.
If you are WCC certified and only operating a thrill craft, you are exempt from the Mandatory Education requirement and you do not have to take any additional training. This is due to the 11/13/14 exemption for thrill craft operators. Does the WCC thrill craft certification class qualify as an acceptable course for operation of a boat under the Mandatory Education rule? Prior to 5/31/14, the WCC class was not NASBLA approved. If you completed the WCC course before 5/31/14, the answer is no. If want to operate any vessel other than a thrill craft, you will need to take a NASBLA and State of Hawaii approved basic boating safety course. The WCC thrill craft certification course became NASBLA approved on 5/31/14. If you completed the WCC course after 5/31/14, the answer is yes. You are certified to operate both a thrill craft and a boat. All students enrolled in the WCC thrill craft certification program are now required by WCC to take a NASBLA and State of Hawaii approved basic boating safety course as a prerequisite for taking the classroom portion of its certification training.
Please note that passing the tow-in-surfing certification class offered by WCC is still required to tow-in surf and request “T” stickers for your vessel. For more on PWC operation in Hawaii, visit: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/personal-water-craft/.
Can you use your MMC to satisfy the prerequisite for a thrill craft certification class? Yes, but you should apply for a BSEC by joining DOBOR’s Registry of Certified Vessel Operators. By doing so, you will receive a BSEC that you can transmit to the course provider to satisfy the prerequisite and you will receive orientation to the State specific rules through the Hawaii Boating Law Basics manual.
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 $10.00.
Three other compliant, online courses are available through ACEBOATER.com, Boat-ed.com and BOATERexam.com. There are fees associated with each of the “.com” Internet courses.
COMPLIANT INTERNET COURSES AVAILABLE NOW INCLUDE:
ACEBOATER.com (Customer Service/Support – 800-607-2329)
Boat-ed.com (Customer Service/Support – 800-830-2268)
BOATERexam.com (Customer Service/Support – 866-764-2628)
BoatUS.org (free) (Customer Service/Support – 800-245-2628)
Please call the appropriate course provider for technical support, to order replacement cards, or if cards/certificates were never received.
For boaters who completed the ACEBOATER.com, Boat-ed.com or the BOATERexam.com on-line courses:
If you successfully completed the ACEBOATER.com, Boat-ed.com or the BOATERexam.com Internet course, you received a paper certificate and a plastic card. If your plastic boater ID card already bears the course approval stamp, no other action is required. Please note that the card issued by ACEBOATER.com is the only credential issued with a black course approval stamp. All others are blue. Display your credentials to all enforcement personnel to demonstrate that you have taken a State-required boating safety course.
If you took the ACEBOATER.com course prior to 10/31/16, the Boat-ed.com course prior to 1/1/14 or the BOATERexam.com course prior to 3/3/15, 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 [email protected], Renee Wallace-Silberstein, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, 4 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819, (fax) 587-1977.
Be sure to provide a CURRENT, return mailing address if it differs from what is printed on your certificate/card, you do not have a mail receptacle, or you have a PO Box.
Even if your credentials do have the 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 ACEBOATER.com, Boat-ed.com and BOATERexam.com with the course approval stamp and the State-issued Boater Safety Education Card will be considered valid by DLNR.
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 r[email protected] or by post to Renee Wallace-Silberstein, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, 4 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819 to request a State-issued, laminated Boater Safety Education Card.
Be sure to provide a CURRENT, return mailing address if it differs from what is printed on your certificate/card, you do not have a mail receptacle, or you have a PO Box. 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.
Do any of the online classes for Hawaii qualify me to operate a thrill craft? No. You must take the thrill craft certification class offered by Windward Community College in addition to a basic boating safety class listed on this page. If you took a NASBLA approved class in another state that allowed you to operate a thrill craft (PWC) in that state, you may cite reciprocity, take DLNR/DOBOR’s Reciprocity Module and receive credentials to legally operate your thrill craft here. For details on citing reciprocity, contact:
Renee Wallace-Silberstein 4 Sand Island Access Road Honolulu, Hawai`i 96819 Ph: (808) 587-0133 Fax: (808) 587-1977 [email protected] 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 Renee Wallace-Silberstein via e-mail to [email protected] via fax to 808-587-1977 or via mail to the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, 4 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819 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.
UPDATE 2019: DLNR/DOBOR can now issue a Boater Safety Education Card for those who successfully completed a UCSG AUX ABS and/or BSS course. Please join the registry (link at top and the bottom of this page) and attach a copy of your credentials to get a BSEC.
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:
Renee Wallace-Silberstein 4 Sand Island Access Road Honolulu, Hawai`i 96819 Ph: (808) 587-0133 Fax: (808) 587-1977 [email protected]
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.
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 Hawai`i. Contact WCC on Oahu for scheduling at 808-235-7433.
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, it should bear the stamp that indicates the course you took is approved for the State of Hawai`i 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 course approval stamp.
The DLNR stamp of approval on a boating safety card is your guarantee that you are compliant. It is circular in design and blue or black in color. It features a stylized boat sail, ocean waves 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.
Q15. Can you use your Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) to satisfy the prerequisite for a thrill craft certification class?
A. Yes, but you should apply for a BSEC by joining DOBOR’s Registry of Certified Vessel Operators (links on this page). By doing so, you will receive a BSEC that you can transmit to the course provider to satisfy the prerequisite and you will receive orientation to the State specific rules through the Hawaii Boating Law Basics manual. You must keep your MMC in force. If you allow it to expire you are required to take a basic boating safety course.
FINAL REMINDER – JOIN THE REGISTRY OF CERTIFIED VESSEL OPERATORS. DLNR/DOBOR is developing a comprehensive database of certified boat operators for the State of Hawaii. Eventually, every individual who is compliant with Hawaii’s Mandatory Education requirement will be listed in this registry. It will serve as the next generation of compliance verification used by DLNR enforcement personnel when they board vessels on State waters. It will be very much like the database of licensed vehicle operators that enforcement officers check when verifying your driver’s license.
If you took DLNR/DOBOR’s home study course, you were automatically added to Hawaii’s Registry of Certified Boat Operators. If not, you can opt to complete this registration process on-line at:
The page is secured. Your confidential information will be carefully guarded, never published and will only be accessed by DLNR management and enforcement personnel.
Eventually, DOBOR plans to make your registration and participation in this system a requirement.
This information was last updated on 8/26/21.