This policy is a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Stewart v. Dutra Construction Company, Inc., 543 U.S. 481, 125 S.Ct. 1118 (2005), which held that Title 1 United States Code, Chapter 3 provides the defining criteria for what constitutes a vessel wherever the U.S. Code refers to “vessel” as a jurisdictional criterion. In its decision, the court upheld that to be considered a vessel, watercraft must have a practical use as transportation on the water.
“The Coast Guard can issue certificates of inspection only to those watercraft meeting the definition of a vessel,” said Cmdr. Lee Boone, chief of the Coast Guard’s Domestic Vessel Compliance Division. “If a watercraft is not a vessel, we have no legal authority to compel compliance with commercial vessel regulations. However, in recent years, many watercraft that had no practical use for transportation on the water were placed into service, were subjected to Coast Guard inspections and received certificates of inspection. This policy resolves that conflict.”
The Coast Guard has been actively working with affected water craft operators and appropriate state agencies to ensure a smooth transition of oversight responsibility. Any watercraft, presently holding a Coast Guard issued certificate of inspection that does not meet the definition of a vessel as determined by the local Coast Guard Officer in Charge of Marine Inspection, will have two years from the policy publication date to migrate to another inspection regimen under a state’s authority. This policy will affect all craft deemed permanently moored, including those used for gaming.