Recreational Boating Safety – Reportable vs. Non-Reportable Boating Accidents

Bob CurrieBy Bob Currie, Recreational Boating Safety Specialist
U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary Station Galveston Flotilla.
National Recreational Boating Safety Program
The mission of the National Recreational Boating Safety (RBS) Program is “to ensure the public has a safe, secure, and enjoyable recreational boating experience by implementing programs that minimize the loss of life, personal injury, and property damage while cooperating with environmental and national security efforts.” The Coast Guard has released the Strategic Plan of the National Recreational Boating Safety Program for 2017-2021 to address the following initiatives: 1) Improve and expand recreational boating education, training, and outreach; 2) Update, leverage, and enforce policies, regulations, and standards; and 3) Improve upon and expand recreational boating data collection and research.

To view the Strategic Plan of the Program, please visit the Division’s website at
http://www.uscgboating.org/content/strategic- plan.php.

The Station Galveston Flotilla of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary operates out of the USCG Station Galveston base on Galveston Island. They aid the Coast Guard by providing maritime observation patrols in Galveston Bay; by providing recreational boating vessel safety checks; and by working alongside Coast Guard members in maritime accident investigation, small boat training, providing a safety zone, Aids to Navigation verification, in the galley, and on the Coast Guard Drone Team.

Where Did You Hear That?
Recreational boating accident statistics are compiled by the Coast Guard every year and released in a report that is used by the Coast Guard, individual states, and local agencies so they can understand what went wrong and educate the public to help reduce the causes of such accidents. Data used to compile the recreational boating accident statistics come from four main sources: State marine agencies; Federal agencies, including the Coast Guard, National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and Forest Service; the public, on a CG-3865 Recreational Boating Accident Report (BAR) form; and the news media.

Non-Reportable Boating Accidents
Not every occurrence involving a vessel is considered within the scope of the National Recreational Boating Safety Program. The key to understanding why the following types of incidents are not reportable is understanding that the incidents do not involve Boating but just coincidentally happen on the water or around a boat. The following occurrences involving a vessel may be required to be reported to the state, but for statistical purposes are excluded from this report and are considered “non-reportable” boating accidents:

  • A person dies, is injured, or is missing because of self-inflicted wounds, alcohol poisoning, gunshot wounds, or the ingestion of drugs, controlled substances, or poison.
  • A person dies, is injured, or is missing because of assault by another person or persons while aboard a vessel.
  • A person dies or is injured from natural causes while aboard a vessel where the vessel did not contribute to the casualty.
  • A person dies, is injured, or is missing because of jumping, diving, or swimming for pleasure from an anchored, moored or docked vessel.
  • A person dies, is injured, or is missing as a result of swimming to retrieve an object or a vessel that is adrift from its mooring or dock, having departed from a place of inherent safety, such as the shore or pier.
  • Property damage occurs or a person dies, is injured, or is missing while preparing a vessel for launching or retrieving and the vessel is not on the water and capable / ready for its intended use.
  • Property damage occurs or a person dies, is injured, or is missing because of a fire on shore or a pier that spreads to a vessel or vessels.
  • Property damage occurs to a docked or moored vessel or a person dies, is injured, or is missing from such a vessel as a result of storms, or unusual tidal or sea conditions; or when a vessel gets underway in those conditions in an attempt to rescue persons or vessels.
  • Property damage occurs to a docked or moored vessel due to lack of maintenance on the vessel or the structure to which it was moored.
  • Property damage occurs to a docked or moored vessel due to theft or vandalism.
  • Property damage occurs to, a person dies or is injured on, or a person is missing from a non-propelled residential platform or other watercraft used primarily as a residence that is not underway.
  • Casualties that result from falls from or on docked vessels or vessels that are moored to a permanent structure.
  • Casualties that result from a person climbing aboard an anchored vessel from the water or swimming near an anchored vessel (unless the casualty was related to carbon monoxide exposure or stray electric current).
  • Fire or explosions on anchored, docked, or moored boats where the cause of the fire was not attributed to the vessel or vessel equipment.
  • Casualty or damage that results when the vehicle used for trailering the vessel fails.
  • Casualties or damage that occur during accidents that only involve watercraft that have not been deemed a vessel.
  • Casualties or damage that occur when the only vessel(s) involved are being used solely for governmental, commercial, or criminal activity.
  • Casualties or damage that occur when the only vessel(s) involved are not required to be numbered and are being used exclusively for racing (exclusion in 33 CFR 173.13(a)).
  • Casualties or damage that occur when the only vessel(s) involved are foreign vessels and thus not subject to U.S. federal reporting requirements.

Reportable Boating Accidents
A vessel is considered to be involved in a “boating accident” whenever a death, missing person, personal injury, property damage, or total vessel loss results from the vessel’s operation, construction, seaworthiness, equipment, or machinery. The key here is that the accident can be tied directly to the operation, construction, seaworthiness, equipment or machinery of the boat. The following are examples of accident types that are reportable to the US Coast Guard:

  • Grounding, capsizing, sinking, or flooding/swamping.
  • Falls in or overboard a vessel. Persons ejected from a vessel.
  • Fire or explosions that occur while underway and while anchored, moored, or docked if the fire resulted from the vessel or vessel equipment.
  • Water-skiing or other mishap involving a towable device.
  • Collision with another vessel or object.
  • Striking a submerged object.
  • A person struck by a vessel, propeller, propulsion unit, or steering machinery.
  • Carbon monoxide exposure.
  • Electrocution due to stray current related to a vessel.
  • Casualties while swimming from a vessel that is not anchored, moored, or docked.
  • Casualties where natural causes served as a contributing factor in the death of an individual but the determined cause of death was drowning.
  • Casualties from natural phenomena such as interaction with marine life (i.e. carp causes casualty to person) and interaction with nature (i.e. mountain side falls onto vessel causing casualties).
  • Casualties where a person falls off an anchored vessel.
  • Casualties that result when a person departs an anchored, disabled vessel to make repairs, such as unfouling an anchor or cleaning out the intake of a jet-propelled vessel.

Summary
When it comes to reporting or not reporting a boating accident, you need to understand which type of incident is reportable and which type is not. The reportable ones are easily tied directly to the boat’s operation, construction, seaworthiness, equipment, or machinery. The non-reportable incidents only coincidentally involve a boat. If in doubt as to whether an incident is reportable or not, contact the Coast Guard for guidance.

For more information on boating safety, please visit the Official Website of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division at www.uscgboating.org. Questions about the US Coast Guard Auxiliary or our free Vessel Safety Check program may be directed to me at [email protected] SAFE BOATING!

[Nov-2-2020]

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