On January 1, 2015, Senate Bill 941 (“SB941”), better known as California’s boating safety education requirement will become law. SB941 requires that vessel operators pass a boating education test and obtain a Vessel Operator Card (“VOC”) in order to operate a vessel that is propelled by an engine on California waterways. California joins a list of many other states with similar boating safety education requirements already in place.
The program will be phased in over the next several years, with the first mandatory requirement for card carrying compliance to begin on January 1, 2018 for certain age groups (20 years of age and younger). By 2025, all persons operating engine propelled vessels in California will be required to have a VOC. There will be some exemptions to the VOC requirement including:
• Non-residents temporarily operating a vessel in California for less than 60 days who meet the boating requirements, if any of their state;
• Residents of countries other than the United States temporarily operating a vessel in California for less than 60 days who meet the boating requirements, if any, of their resident country;
• A person operating a vessel while under the direct supervision of a person 18 years of age or older who is in possession of a California VOC issued by the Department of Boating and Waterways;
• A person operating a vessel in an organized regatta or vessel race, or water ski race;
• A person operating a rental vessel;
• A person who is in possession of a current commercial fishing license;
• A person in possession of a valid marine operator license (USCG or STCW78);
• A person who has successfully completed a boating course approved by the Commission on Peach office Standards and Training.
The California Department of Boating and Waterways is currently in the process of determining what courses will be approved and qualify a participant for a VOC upon successful completion. Once issued a California VOC will remain valid for the operator’s lifetime.