I recently retired as a NPS law enforcement ranger on Lake Powell (Glen Canyon National Recreation Area). The park spans Arizona and Utah and is under concurrent jurisdiction. Thus, I could apply state or federal law to a crime - whichever was most appropriate. I first ran into this rented boat safety problem in 2019 and it only got worse every subsequent year. Todd Mann points out USCG regulations may apply in these situations, but IMHO these are not particularly clear.
Instead, when I encountered this in Utah waters the solution was simple... Utah state boating codes are very specific with respect to safety and insurance requirements that boat rental "liveries" must comply with. I used these on numerous occassions to educate and/or charge boat rental company representatives and individual boat owners who were renting directly to lessees or through outfits like Boatsetter.
As Officer Wagner points out, services like Boatsetter are not likely to be legally considered as liveries since all they do is provide a website for people to connect, take payments and make payments. In fact Boatsetter's terms of service explicitly limit the company's function (and liability?) to only this (https://www.boatsetter.com/legal/terms_of_service
). Hence, the Boatsetters of the world (more than likely) cannot be considered culpable for the issues/infractions we are discussing here. However, I suggest the actual
owners of the boats rented through these middlemen are culpable, as are any of their agents
acting on their behalf to list vessels for rent, managing logistics, maintain safety equipment, etc.
So forget about the Boatsetters - they are just conduits of commerce. Instead, go after the registered owners and/or their agents, be they individuals, partnerships, or corporations. Finding them just takes some good investigation, i.e., review of documents like vessel registrations and lease agreements; interviews of renters, vessel registration data from states and/or USCG; and making contact with outfits like Boatsetter. It's interesting to note that Boatsetter's terms of service explicitly require lessors to "... be in compliance with all applicable laws, tax requirements, and rules and regulations that may apply to any Boat included in a Listing you post, including, but not limited to, insurance requirements, coast guard regulations, zoning laws, marina regulations, and laws governing rentals and operation of Boats..."
Now, imagine how Boatsetter will react to a call from law enforcement seeking boat owner information because there were no PFDs aboard the subject vessel... or a child was killed because safety laws were ignored. Envision how short a period of time it will take for Boatsetter to pull the plug on a lessor that doesn't meet state or federal requirements... Get your state or U.S. attorneys involved if needed.
Of course, all this only works if the necessary (and life saving) laws and regulations are in place in your jurisdiction. It's tragic this is not the case. I highly recommend looking over Utah's regs - if nothing more than as a template of what should
be in force in every state...https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title73/Chapter18/73-18-S2.html
(73-18-9 and 10)https://regulations.justia.com/states/utah/natural-resources/title-r651/rule-r651-221/section-r651-221-1/
(BTW, see "(6) A recreational "equipment timeshare" business which leases or rents vessels for consideration is
a boat livery.")
National Park Service
Sent: 08-23-2022 10:01 AM
From: Philip Hager
Subject: Boatsetter safe boating certificates
In Maryland we have had two accidents that involved boaters that have rented a boat through boatsetter but did not have a Boating Safety Certificate. When looking at the boatsetter website it looks like they leave it up to the renters to meet the laws or requirements of each state. It doesn't look like they are checking certificates. Are any other states having issues with boatsetter rentals or companies like them? Is there a contact out there for boatsetters?
Maryland Natural Resource Police