NASBLA Roundtable

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Boatsetter safe boating certificates

  • 1.  Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-23-2022 10:01 AM
    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?

    Philip Hager
    Maryland Natural Resource Police

  • 2.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-24-2022 10:20 AM
    Florida has recently updated our livery regulation and defined "livery". Boatsetter by our definition is not a livery and the requirement to abide by our livery regulations is aimed at the owner of the vessel rented. This is because Boatsetter only advertises the vessel, like a third party connecting the vessel owner and those interested in renting it. Unlike other boat companies that are set up like timeshares for example Freedom Boat Club, where they advertise or list the vessel availability and provide that same vessel to the renter.  (Even though they are club members)
    327.54 Liveries; safety regulations; penalty.
    (1) As used in this section, the term: 
    (a) "Advertise" means to describe or draw attention to a vessel and its availability for lease or rental in any medium for the purpose of promoting the lease or rental of the vessel. 
    (b) "Conviction" means any judicial disposition other than acquittal or dismissal.
    (c) "Livery" means a person who advertises and offers a livery vessel for use by another in exchange for any type of consideration when such person does not also provide the lessee or renter with a captain, a crew, or any type of staff or personnel to operate, oversee, maintain, or manage the vessel. The owner of a vessel who does not advertise his or her vessel for use by another for consideration and who loans or offers his or her vessel for use to another known to him or her either for consideration or without consideration is not a livery. A public or private school or postsecondary institution located within this state is not a livery. A vessel rented or leased by a livery is a livery vessel as defined in s. 327.02.
    327.02 Definitions:
    (24) "Livery vessel" means a vessel leased, rented, or chartered to another for consideration.

    Seth Wagner
    Assistant Boating Safety Coordinator
    FL Fish & Wildlife Conservation Comm

  • 3.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-25-2022 10:04 AM

    I know people are renting their RVs and campers and wondered if it was also happening with cars. I did a quick google search, "rent my car," and learned IT IS a thing! It seems there are hurdles and issues anytime an individual decides to rent their personal property. This is the first link I clicked on, and it brings up several good points that would apply to renting boats. However, it doesn't indicate if renting personal vehicles is allowed or requires special permitting in states. (State laws must be followed, whether it's a boat or a car!)




    Mark Chanski

    Education Director


    National Association of State Boating Law Administrators

    1020 Monarch Street, Suite 200

    Lexington, KY 40513



  • 4.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-26-2022 10:49 AM
    Hi Mark - I tried an experiment myself.

    Although it's been 3 or more years, I looked into several boat peer-to-peer "sharing" platforms as the rec boat marine industry had many concerns, including operation safety. I looked into the "boat owner" agreement information and the platform places the onus of training, certificates, insurance, and state laws on the owner (most offered some type of insurance to owners for extra cost). Most of the platforms also had some online rules-of-the-road information available for the "boat renters" but there was no requirement for the renter to even look at the information.

    Out of curiosity, I joined one platform as a renter and, at that time, I believe that there was one question about boating experience, and one question if I had a certificate of operation in my state; I answered No to both. The entire registration process took about 4 minutes.

    I chose a boat in my area enquiring about availability for a couple of hours that day, and within 30 minutes received an email directly from the boat owner. In my reply I stated that "boating looked fun" to me and my friends but none of us had ever operated a boat before and we just wanted to take it for a spin for a couple hours; I then asked if it was difficult to drive. Within minutes, the owner replied that it was very easy to drive and anyone could do it. I then replied about if I would get trained on operation and the response was that he would show me how to start and stop the boat, reiterated how easy it is to operate, and mentioned that it was equipped with safety equipment for 8 people. I then replied by asking how early we needed to show-up before the start time - he replied about 10 minutes. At no point did the owner ask about certificates or navigation training, even though he had access to my user profile. In fairness, since I did not go through with it, I have no idea what might have happened at the dock.

    My concerns about the exchange is that the owner:
    1. Was willing to book the boat that day, for just 2 hours, to newbies looking for fun.
    2. Requiring only 10 minutes for operation orientation.
    3. Was seemingly unconcerned about me knowing the rules-of-the-road.
    While things may have changed since back then, it is scary to think that nearly anyone with a phone in their pocket can, in the course of an hour, sign-up, book, and operate a boat on a whim! I think the owner/renter laws are a good step but question how will the word get out to all parties...

    Be safe & happy boating,

    John Jost
    JTS Marine Technical Services
    M: 414-232-2687
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  • 5.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-27-2022 10:18 AM
    I'm not in Law Enforcement, being quasi-civilian as a credentialed Master and officer of a Harbor Safety Committee, but I want you all to know the stories (sounds like maybe others than Boatsetter) about putting incompetent "drivers" on boats is infuriating.  Go get 'em.

    David Brezina
    Chicago Harbor Safety Comm

  • 6.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-24-2022 01:33 PM
    A Note:

    Education (strongly encourage)  of charter companie's  Insurance providers to alter their rates and coverage based on whether the charterer has their Boater Safety Card. No govt. intervention required.

    E. R. "Ash" Ashbaugh
    Director of Field Operations 
    M 626-616-2110

  • 7.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-24-2022 04:05 PM
    We have had an increase in private citizens offering their vessels for lease through Boatsetter, GetMyBoat and Facebook, which poses several problems for law enforcement. Only vessels registered with the state as rental vessels may lawfully be rented and there are requirements that bona fide liveries have to meet in order to rent those vessels. In return for this compliance, our law allows a renter to operate under the rental agreement without having to meet operator education or licensing requirements (other than what must be supplied by the livery prior to rental) for the duration of the rental period.

    Private citizens who rent their boats are essentially giving another citizen, in-state or out-of-state, permission to operate their vessel without any sort of license, education or safety equipment requirement. The law in Alabama holds the person who gives such permission liable criminally with regard to equipment and operator/education requirements. If an individual who rents a boat from a private citizen is involved in a crash, then the operator and owner can be charged criminally. That doesn't even take into account the civil liability incurred by a private citizen renting his or her boat outside the law.

    If we can identify a vessel for rent by a private citizen outside the prescribed legal process - we will put a hold on their registration renewal until they speak with us about what they're doing. In the field we handle it as necessary by contacting the owner at the time of the stop. 

    Our livery law and regulation will hopefully be updated in the near future as well. Boat clubs are operating in a gray area in Alabama right now and we hope to gain some clarification on that issue as well. 

    Matt Brooks
    Deputy Chief
    AL Marine Patrol

  • 8.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-25-2022 09:29 AM


    Coming from a federal (USCG) point of view, we are having many challenges with sites like Boatsetter, GetMyBoat, GoLakeHop, social media, etc...  They are making it very easy for people (almost promoting) to offer their services or vessel outside of federal rules.  The law (Passenger Safety Act of 1993) requires anyone offering their vessel for charter for at least 1 passenger (no more than 6) for hire must be federally licensed (Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (aka. 6-pack license)) among other requirements such as type I life jackets, safety training and DOT random drug testing enrollment.  A large portion of the people that do this are not aware or chose to operate outside those rules and take consideration ($) from paying passengers as a fish guide, charter operator or hunting guide.


    In another example, many people offer their boat for "rent" or bareboat charter often on these types of sites.  According to federal rules, this requires a charter agreement and all responsibilities of the operation of that vessel transferred to the charterer (crew, stores, fuel, insurance, etc...)  When the owner or a representative of the owner retains control of the vessel or remains onboard, this is NOT a legal bareboat charter in the eyes of the USCG and they should be licensed and meet all OUPV/6-pack rules.  On top of that, any bareboat charter is limited to 12 passengers plus 1 charterer.  There should never be more than that if that vessel is "rented" out.  I've told marinas this as they are going by the manufacturers placard and they are often very confused by this.  If the USCG was to verify an operation operating more than 6 passengers like this or as an OUPV, the operator/owner would be charged for not being a certified inspected vessel examined and approved for passenger service annually by the Coast Guard.


    So these types of sites offer an easy way for people to offer their service of vessel for hire or charter and the USCG is seeing a lot of non-compliance.  In TN, we work closely with TWRA, the USCG Auxiliary and other partners to educate operators, detect non-compliance and ultimately enforce the rules.  However, it is very hard to do because we have to essentially document the non-compliance in the act and be able to prove that money changed hands or that an operator is an owner or representative of the vessel owner during a bareboat charter.  We rely heavily on intel collection, public education opportunities and operations w/ partners to assist in detection and enforcement of these rules.  


    MSD Nashville would be very willing to cooperate with you, Matt, being with Alabama Marine Patrol.  We have discussed these issues with your officers in the past but need to continue to liaise with your agency in northern Alabama.  Our area of responsibility (and jurisdiction) covers all of the Cumberland and Tennessee River and tributaries.  I am interested to hear more about these livery vessel rules as well because they will overlap with our bareboat charter rules.  

  • 9.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-26-2022 11:25 AM
    Todd, we are very interested in working with you guys. As you know we fall in two different Sectors and have a number of extremely busy traffic areas with concurrent jurisdiction in our state. We also have three extremely busy sole state bodies of water that we have seen an increase in these types of online rental operations - and we are hoping to study the subject in depth and create a new all-encompassing regulation or state law that is clear for everyone. Another thing we're looking at is our desire to NOT have two separate laws (if possible) for one issue - one for concurrent jurisdiction waters (Federally controlled) and one for sole state waters. Our Emergency Cut-Off Switch law is an example of that - while very similar to the new Federal law there are a number of differences that make it difficult for the boater to understand. In that case we will be introducing new legislation in the next term to update our state law to mirror the Federal law.

    Matt Brooks
    Deputy Chief
    AL Marine Patrol

  • 10.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-30-2022 08:14 AM
    Todd - this is a problem on a State level as well. In New York we have a "Public Vessel" program where all (motorized) vessels that carry passengers for hire on sole-state waters must be licensed by the State and inspected annually by our Marine Services Bureau. We inspect to a very close criteria as CFR T. Many Boatsetter/GMB people in NY may think that because they don't need a USCG license on the lake they are operating on that they can take people out, but this is false. I track down at least a few illegal charters per season here and have our local Marine Law Enforcement patrols keep an eye out for them.

    Kristen Johnston 
    Senior Marine Services Representative
    NYS Parks, Marine Services Bureau

    Kristen Johnston
    NYS Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation

  • 11.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-26-2022 08:31 AM

    What is the time frame for these accidents in Maryland? BoatU.S. is the insurance provider for Boatsetter, and we have not seen any accidents this year as you describe.

    Chris Edmonston
    BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety & Clean Water

  • 12.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-27-2022 08:51 AM
    I’m Virginia at our rental business we must either have the operator’s boating safety certificate or the operator must complete a Dockside Safety Checklist (provided by Virginia DWR) prior to rental.

    One issue here on the Potomac is that the boating is usually in Virginia, Maryland,and DC waters during any given trip so the three jurisdictions have completely different rules.

    Terry Hill

  • 13.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-29-2022 08:08 AM
    It will be interesting to see how insurance considers this.  When I bought my recreational boat policy I had to tell the insurer that the boat would not be used for commercial purposes.  I can't imagine that an insurance company would be comfortable writing a policy for a boat that could be used by anyone.  If they were to cover that, I would think the rate would be astronomical.

    Paul Barnard
    8th District RBS Specialist
    US Coast Guard

  • 14.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-29-2022 12:16 PM

    Most insurers are aware of what is going on. I know BoatU.S. has a rider that you can add to your policy to cover these activities--and it's not that expensive at all.

    Chris Edmonston
    BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety & Clean Water

  • 15.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-30-2022 08:44 AM


    I know how insurance companies view using your car for commercial purposes.  Uber for example, they (USAA) developed specific insurance for that and now they ask up front if you will be using a vehicle for ride-share purposes.  I would expect just the same hesitation for boats.  I would think there would be grounds for not covering claims when a rec vessel is being used for commercial (charter, ride share) purposes.



  • 16.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 08-31-2022 06:40 PM
    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 (  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...  (73-18-9 and 10)
    (BTW, see "(6) A recreational "equipment timeshare" business which leases or rents vessels for consideration is
    a boat livery.")

    Greg Galloway
    National Park Service

  • 17.  RE: Boatsetter safe boating certificates

    Posted 09-01-2022 11:16 AM

    In Ohio, many of the boating laws and regulations end with the phrase "it is unlawful to operate or permit the operation of a vessel in this state in violation of the provision of this section." This allows some officer discretion to impose legal consequences not only on the operator, but also the owner where appropriate. It can be especially useful where a minor is improperly operating a higher HP motorized vessel (like PWC's) with the consent of an adult relative or friend as well as in these situations where an owner is participating in a 'casual' direct rental service. 

    Even though this doesn't directly impact Boatsetter, if individual owners supplying watercraft as sponsored providers for the company begin to see consequences for not validating renters' compliance with state education laws, word is likely to get back to the folks running the business (as well as other participating boat owners). 

    Deb Green
    Operational Systems & Regulatory Program Administrator
    OH DNR, Parks & Watercraft