General Information

Boarding Policy

The Coast Guard is the primary maritime law enforcement agency of the government. As such, it is authorized to board vessels upon the high seas and upon waters over which the United States has jurisdiction to make inquires, examinations, inspections, searches, seizures and arrests.

Units of other agencies of the law enforcement community - city police, sheriffs’ departments, state marine units, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Customs - also conduct the enforcement of marine laws within their areas of responsibility.
During peacetime, the Coast Guard is under the Department of Homeland Security. Otherwise, it serves under the Department of the Navy.

What should you expect if a Coast Guard boat stops you? A uniformed Coast Guard boarding team will notify you that they are coming aboard to conduct a Coast Guard boarding. Like other law enforcement officers, they will be armed. Once on board they will conduct an initial safety inspection to identify any obvious safety hazards and to ensure the sea worthiness of your vessel.

The boarding officer will then ask to see the vessel registration or documentation, and he will proceed to inspect the vessel’s regulatory status - commercial, recreational, passenger, cargo, and/or fishing vessel. He will also check for compliance with any civil law applicable to the status of the vessel. He may also enforce U.S. criminal law.

When the inspection is complete, the boarding officer will fill out a Coast Guard boarding form and note any discrepancies. You will get a signed copy before they depart.

When the boarding officer issues you a boarding report, he will either issue a yellow copy if no discrepancies were noted or a white copy if there were any. A white copy will indicate a warning or a notice of violation. The boarding officer should explain the procedures to follow. In any event, those procedures are written on the reverse of the form.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary has no law enforcement powers. The goal of the Auxiliary is to educate the public on boat safety and render service to disable boaters - including Search and Rescue - by working closely with the Coast Guard.

If you have any questions, ask the boarding officer or call the Coast Guard Customer Information Line at 1-800-368-5647.

US Coast Guard Auxiliary Saves Millions

The Coast Guard Auxiliary save taxpayers at least $200 million per year by supplementing civilian volunteer assistance according to a study by Vice Commodore E. W. Edgerton of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

If you go down to the water almost every weekend and holiday during the boating season, you may see a personal pleasure craft being converted into a “vessel of the United States.” Flags are hoisted and signboards reading “U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Patrol” are affixed. The radio begins to crackle as several non-military looking people put on life jackets over blue uniforms to get underway. What are they doing? Is this something worthwhile? Or are these people simply taking a boat ride at government expense?

Let’s examine the typical Saturday safety patrol. The patrol usually lasts 6 hours and is often timed to coincide with the critical sunset hours when a routine or minor problem can quickly become an emergency because of the approaching darkness. Vessels are manned by a Coxswain (Skipper) and two or more crew members. Each has been trained in search and rescue techniques, towing, CG Assistance Policy, emergency procedures, and each must maintain annual qualifications.

The average patrol covers approximately 20 miles coming and going. The crew checks aids to navigation devices, bridges, private markers and state regulation signs. Where applicable, they search for marine life in distress, assist boaters with local information or directions, look for pollution and situations that could lead to pollution. They maintain constant communications with local Coast Guard units and/or area law enforcement agencies. They search for hazards and report, at least every hour, on conditions and observations. And, of course, they also look for fellow boaters in distress and take action as circumstances dictate. Finally, while the Coast Guard Auxiliary has no law enforcement authority, boaters seen participating in dangerous or illegal actions may be politely advised. These safety patrols prevent accidents and relieve the Coast Guard from having to expend precious resources for routine matters. Boat owners are reimbursed for fuel costs while vessels are being used for patrols.

According to the last published figures the Coast Guard Auxiliary consisted: of 33,000 members, conducted over 38,000 boating safety classes, 161,000 boating safety checks, 30,000 surface patrols and saved 10% of the lives saved by the Coast Guard and prevented the loss of millions of dollars in property. The Auxiliary is credited with helping to reduce the number of fatalities from 10.1 per 100,000 to 5.9 per 100,000 at a cost to each taxpayer of less than one penny a year.

Life Jackets Save Lives. They Float - You Don't! Always Wear Your Life Jacket.