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Legislation introduced in NJ to allow minors to operate motorized boats

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A bill, A3396 was introduced on June 14th in the State Legislature of New Jersey by Assemblyman Erik Peterson who represents Warren County. The proposal would allow persons under the age of 16 to operate a power vessel with immediate parental supervision.

This bill provides that a person under 16 years of age may operate a power boat on the tidal waters of the state while under the direct supervision of a licensed parent or guardian. The bill defines "direct supervision" as supervision by a parent or guardian who is physically present at all times and capable of immediately assuming control of the power vessel. Unfortunately, this bill doesn’t seem to have gathered a lot of support at this time.

Under current law, no one under the age of 13 may operate any type of power boat on New Jersey State Waters. Boaters between the ages of 13 and 16 who successfully complete a boat safety course may only operate vessels powered by an electric motor, or vessels of 12 feet or more in length with a motor of less than 10 horsepower.

A New Jersey Boating Safety Education Certificate is required to operate a motorized boat in the Garden State regardless of age. NJ law states: All persons who wish to operate a motorized vessel, including a personal watercraft, must possess a boating safety education certificate. (This requirement does not apply to kayaks, canoes or unpowered boats.)

Out-of-state residents (including PA residents) are not exempt from the education requirement; however, the law states that an out-of-State resident who is at least 16 years of age and who will be in this State for less than 90 days may operate a power vessel on the waters of the State of New Jersey if they possess a boat safety certificate issued by their state of residence, or if they possess written proof of successful completion of a boat safety course approved by another state, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (N.A.S.B.L.A.) or the United States Coast Guard.

In PA not all boat operators are required to have a Boating Education Certificate. (This fact was erroneously reported recently by a local Lehigh Valley newspaper which stated that all boat operators in Pennsylvania, regardless of age, must have a Boating Education Certificate.) They are only required under the following conditions:

  • To operate a personal watercraft (Personal water craft (PWC), also called water scooter, is a recreational watercraft that the rider sits or stands on, rather than inside of, as in a boat. They have an inboard engine driving a pump jet that has a screw-shaped impeller to create thrust for propulsion and steering. They are often referred by the trademarked brand names Jet Ski, Wave Runner, or Sea-Doo. Most are designed for two or three people, though four-passenger models exist. The United States Coast Guard defines a personal watercraft, amongst other criteria, as a jet drive boat less than 13' in length, in order to exclude from that definition more conventional sized jet boats. There is a wide variety of "jet boats" many of which exceed 30-40' in length.)
  • For persons born on or after January 1, 1982, to operate boats powered by motors greater than 25 horsepower.

Approved permanent Boating Safety Education Certificates for Pennsylvania residents must be issued by the PA Fish & Boat Commission. Out of state boaters must have a certificate issued for a course approved by the NASBLA. People who successfully complete a Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission approved boating course are issued a Boating Safety Education Certificate which is good for a persons’ lifetime.

For more information about the Pennsylvania boating safety education certificate or PA boat regulations.

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