KETCHIKAN (KDN) — As the weather warms up, it's important to be aware of new changes to the U.S. Coast Guard's recreational vessel safety requirements for fire extinguishers.
As of October 22, 2021, fire extinguishers on recreational vessels must be placed in "readily accessible" locations, rather than simply "onboard," as previously had been required.
Additionally, the rating system used to classify fire extinguishers has changed, which might affect some boat owners.
For all boat models, fire extinguishers must be replaced if they are more than 12 years old according to the date stamped on the bottle, and any new or replacement fire extinguishers must be labeled according to the new rating system of 5-B, 10-B or 20-B.
Owners of boats with model years 2018 or newer need to replace any extinguishers labeled B-I or B-II under the legacy extinguisher rating system with new extinguishers rated using the new system. Replacement extinguishers should comply with the following minimum carriage requirements of extinguishers based on boat size:
•  Vessels less than 26 feet long must have one 5-B-rated extinguisher with no fixed systems, but do not need one if the vessel has approved fixed systems.
•  Vessels between 26 and 40 feet long must have two 5-B-rated extinguishers but need only one if they have approved fixed systems.
•  Vessels between 40 and 65 feet long must have three 5-B-rated extinguishers. With approved fixed systems, they are permitted to carry only two 5-B-rated extinguishers.
Extinguishers rated 20-B may be substituted for two extinguishers rated 5-B.
A recent Boat Owners' Association of the United States press release clarifies how to consider a 10-B-rated extinguisher.
"Many retailers today offer '10-B' class fire extinguishers, which may be a good choice as they exceed U.S. Coast Guard minimum carriage requirements for boats under 26 feet, while at the same time giving boaters more extinguishing coverage," the release explains. "For boats 26 feet or greater, however, having one '10-B' aboard does not equal two 5-Bs. Only a '20-B' classification meets the requirement to carry two '5-B' extinguishers. For a look at how many and what type of fire extinguishers are needed aboard all recreational boats up to 65 feet, go to BoatUS.org/Fire-Extinguishers."
Boats with model years 2017 or older can continue to use B-I or B-II-rated extinguishers as long as the extinguishers are not more than 12 years old according to the manufacturing date.
New extinguishers can be used for up to 12 years after the date of manufacture, provided they are serviceable. To count as serviceable, an extinguisher must meet the following criteria:
•   The pressure indicator or pressure gauge reading must be in the operable range or position, provided the extinguisher has such a gauge or indicator.
•   The lock pin must be firmly in place.
•  The discharge nozzle must be clean and free of obstruction.
•   The extinguisher must not show visible signs of significant corrosion or damage.
Through 2022, failure to comply with the new regulations will result in written warnings. From 2023 onward, monetary penalties of up to $2,739 per violation may be enforced.
For questions regarding compliance with the new requirements, contact your nearest U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety unit.