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Changes to Florida maritime law that yacht owners need to know

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2023 | Legislative Updates

Yacht owners who regularly dock in South Florida should be aware of changes in the law that recently took effect. The Boating Safety Act (BSA) aims to reduce deaths, injuries and damage from boating accidents, which have been on the rise recently.

Among the new regulations under the BSA, there are:

  • An expanded definition of “livery vessel” to include bareboat or demise charters, though the law still only applies to those advertised for charter, as opposed to a boat owner who privately lends their vessel to friends or relatives.
  • A new definition of “seaworthiness,” specifically: “the vessel and all its parts and equipment, including, but not limited to, engines, bilge pumps, kill switches, are functional and reasonably fit for their intended purpose.”
  • A requirement for charter companies to get an annual permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) after proving that their fleet is properly insured and equipped with safety equipment.
  • A requirement to provide safety training to customers before handing over the vessel’s keys.

In 2020, there were 836 reported boating accidents, including seven deaths in Miami-Dade County alone. While boats of all sizes get into accidents on Florida’s waterways, large vessels like yachts are especially vulnerable. FWC reports that for 2021, 83 percent of boat operators involved in deadly incidents lacked formal training in boating.

If you ever rent out your yacht, you need to know how BSA affects your legal obligations. Consulting with a maritime attorney can help keep your business in compliance and avoid potential criminal charges or civil litigation.