Effective April 1, in response to the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, vessel operators are required to use either a helm or outboard lanyard or wireless Emergency Cut-Off Switch (ECOS) on certain vessels less than 26 feet when traveling on plane or above displacement speed. These vessels include (1) boats that have a functioning engine cutoff device installed at the helm or on an outboard engine or have wireless ECOS, or (2) boats manufactured beginning January 2020. The Coast Guard increased the number of boats required to have ECOS installed after this date in an effort to reduce boating accidents and fatalities.
Exceptions to the ECOS requirement include if the main helm of the vessel is in an enclosed cabin or the vessel is not operating on plane or at displacement speed. Low-speed activities such as fishing, docking, or working sails do not require use of an ECOS. The vessel operator is also exempt if the boat’s motor produces less than 115 lbs. of static thrust – or about the size of a 2-hp engine.
While boat operators who fail to follow the new requirement could face a $100 civil penalty for the first offense, the Bainbridge Island Police Department's initial focus will be education.