NO.nutriarodeo.030121.016.jpg (copy)

Jamison Trouth, founder and operator of Yellowfin Distillery, and Paul Cozic, a Hell Diver and body recovery diver with the Blake Terry Foundation, stand ready on the front of Captain Walter Heathcock's air boat during the Nutria Rodeo near Venice, La., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. The Audubon Zoo agreed to take the nutrias to feed the animals and the proce (Photo by Sophia Germer,, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Buying a boat with an outboard engine this year?

Did you buy one last year? Or in late 2019 or maybe during the past 30 years?

If you did, then you need to know a new U.S. Coast Guard regulation set to take effect April 1.

You need to have an engine cut-off switch — AND USE IT!

Most boat owners call these devices “kill” switches, because when used properly and tethered to the boat’s operator, the engine kills when the operator moves a distance from the engine controls. The “kill” switch is wired into the engine’s keyed-to-start switch.

The new regulation, approved by Congress, mandates the following:

  • For all boats less that 26 feet long;
  • For all engines “capable of 115 pounds of static thrust” which translates in engines rated at 3 or greater horsepower;
  • Since the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 (Section 503) required manufacturers of covered recreational boats less than 26 feet in length, with an engine capable of 115 pounds of static thrust “to equip the vessel with an ECOS installed as of December 2019. Owners of recreational vessels produced after December 2019 are required to maintain the ECOS on their vessel in a serviceable condition. It is recommended that recreational vessel owners regularly check their existing ECOS system to ensure it works, following manufacturer’s instructions.”
  • The regulation also applies to the requirement to have a “cut-off switch link” effective April 1. The “link” refers to the lanyard attached to the kill switch and to the boat’s operator.
  • The new regulation also allows the use of wireless ECOS. The USCG announcement stated, “These devices use an electronic ‘fob’ that is carried by the operator and senses when it is submerged in water, activating the ECOS and turning the engine off. Wireless devices are available on the aftermarket and are beginning to become available as manufacturer-installed options.”
  • Using the lanyard properly attached to the kill switch is required only when “the primary helm is not within an enclosed cabin, and when the boat is operating on plane or above displacement speed. Situations where lanyard/kill switch use would not be required include docking/trailering, trolling and operating in no-wake zones.
  • The Coast Guard pushed for the new law after compiling years of data showing an increasing number of boaters and fishermen killed or injured by “runaway” boats.
  • “During these incidents the boat continues to operate with no one in control of the vessel, leaving the operator stranded in the water as the boat continues on course, or the boat begins to circle the person in the water eventually striking them, often with the propeller,” the release stated. “These dangerous runaway vessel situations put the ejected operator, other users of the waterway, and marine law enforcement officers and other first responders in serious danger.”
  • In hearings supporting the new regulation, Coast Guard spokespersons said they believed most recreational boats manufactured during the past 30 years have kill switches installed, and this new regulation “obligates recreational vessel operators to use critical safety equipment already present on their boats.”

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