Mandatory Boating Safety Education Q&A
Effective November 10, 2014, all individuals who operate a motorized vessel in Hawaii’s State waters must have taken a state-approved boating safety course and show proof of certification upon demand by law enforcement. The text of this Mandatory Boater Education Rule is contained in Hawaii Administrative Rule Section 13-244-15.5 (available here).
DOBOR maintains an electronic database of certified boat operators for the State of Hawaii. Inclusion in this database is optional but is strongly recommended. Once you have completed your boating safety education course, you may enter your name & information, as well as upload your credentials in the Hawaii Registry of Vessel Operators. All vessel operators in Hawaii ocean waters are required to carry proof of boating safety education certification on board while operating the vessel. Law enforcement officers may ask to see your proof of certification at any time and may also ask for a photo ID. Failure to provide valid certification may result in a fine and/or termination of your voyage. Although you may be in the electronic Registry, Hawaii Administrative Rules require hardcopy certification to be on the boater’s person whenever operating a vessel.
All information submitted to the Registry is never published and will only be accessed by authorized DLNR employees and law enforcement personnel.
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.
November 10, 2014. Since that date, boaters have been required to show proof of certification to law enforcement officers upon demand.
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.
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. For thrill craft (aka personal watercraft, jet skis, water bikes, etc.) there is additional certification required. See DOBOR’s thrill craft page for additional details and approved courses. Successful completion of a NASBLA approved basic boating safety course is the first step in the thrill craft certification process.
All navigable State waters from the high water mark on shore to three miles at sea.
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 and navigation and is required to understand vessel rules of the road. Individuals with a MMC may request a laminated, State-issued Boater Safety Education Card 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). By requesting a BSEC, the MMC holder also receives a copy of the Hawaii Boating Law Basics manual. This publication provides the MMC holder detailed information on the most important Hawaii-specific boating laws for our waters.
Please note that the expiration date of the Boater Safety Education Card 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 Boater Safety Education Card through DOBOR. Unfortunately, HAR 13-244-15.5 does not make accommodations for expired MMCs.
“§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.
Any person violating this rule shall be fined not less than $50 and not more than $1,000 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.
Acceptable courses must be NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators) and State of Hawaii approved. Hawaii’s Mandatory Education Rule only acknowledges NASBLA approved courses taught in the United States, US Territories, and Canada. Visiting vessels are exempt from compliance with Hawaii’s Mandatory Education requirement for 60 days. 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.
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 Boater Safety Education Card by joining DOBOR’s Registry of Certified Vessel Operators. By doing so, you will receive a Boater Safety Education Card 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.
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.
Four other compliant, online courses are available through ACEBOATER.com, Boat-ed.com, BOATERexam.com and BoatTests101.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)
BoatTests101.com (Customer Service/Support – 888-885-8830)
BoatUS.org (free) (Customer Service/Support – 800-245-2628)
Copy and paste a course provider’s name into a browser to access their course offerings.
Please contact 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], Clifford Inn, 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 [email protected] or by post to Clifford Inn, 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.
Yes and No. You must take either the thrill craft certification class offered by Windward Community College or the BoatEd.com thrill craft certification course in addition to a basic boating safety class listed on this page.
NOTE: The Kanalu/Kanalu K38 program has not been approved as a course provider in Hawaii since 2017.
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. Join the DOBOR registry to request a Boater Safety Education Card. A BSEC can be used to satisfy prerequisites for the required thrill craft courses.
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). As of 2/4/2022 there are no US Power Squadrons (USPS) approved to operate in the State of Hawaii.
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 NASBLA approved US Coast Guard Auxiliary or US Power Squadron course outside of Hawaii or prior to incorporation of the State specific content (in courses taught in Hawaii) 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 DOBOR 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 of Certified Vessel Operators and attach a copy of your credentials to get a Boater Safety Education Card.
To search for a USCG AUX class near you, visit: https://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.
COMPLIANT CLASSROOM COURSES AVAILABLE NOW INCLUDE:
- All NASBLA approved US Coast Guard Auxiliary classroom courses.
- Boat Hawaii, offered by Kamaaina Kids, Island of Oahu.
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 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 Hawaii 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 Hawaii by DLNR.”
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.
One recommended, additional step beyond certification is for you to join the DLNR/DOBOR Registry of Certified Vessel Operators. It is DOBOR’s goal to create a comprehensive, Statewide registry. All who join the registry can request a free, laminated Boater Safety Education Card (BSEC). This card is equivalent to your official certification card and if it is ever lost or stolen, you can request a free replacement from DOBOR.
Yes and no. If you try to register for a thrill craft course, you will be asked to apply for a Boater Safety Education Card by joining DOBOR’s Registry of Certified Vessel Operators (links on this page) before registration can be completed. By joining the Registry, you will receive a Boater Safety Education Card that you can digitally 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 also maintain your MMC. If you allow your MMC to expire, you will be required to take a basic boating safety course.
This page was last updated on 11/22/23.
Department of Land & Natural Resources
Division of Boating & Ocean Recreation
4 Sand Island Access Road
Honolulu, Hawaii 96819
Tel: (808) 587-1966
Fax: (808) 587-1977
DLNR Enforcement: 643-DLNR (3567)
U.S. Coast Guard
- News & Notices To Mariners