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Engine Cut-Off Switches - New Law goes into Effect on 1 April 2021

by Veronica Jeans, Ecommerce Queen April 28, 2021

Information on Engine Cut-Off Switches and propeller safety for both the Recreational Boater and Manufacturers.

Why you should wear your Engine Cut-off Switch link?

A typical three-blade propeller running at 3,200 rpm can inflict 160 impacts in one second so it is critical that you are aware of what is going on around you.  Be aware:

  • People in the water may not be visible from the helm
  • Account for passengers before starting the engine
  • Inform passengers about propeller hazard areas
  • Be alert in congested areas and near swimming zones
  • Take extra precaution around towed watersports
  • Never permit riding on the bow, gunwale, transom, seatbacks, or other locations where an occupant could fall overboard
  • Children should be watched carefully at all times – it only takes a second to fall overboard
  • You would childproof your home so think about childproofing your boat
  • Establish rules for swim platform use, boarding ladders, and seating
  • If someone falls overboard, STOP the boat; once clear begin recovery procedures
  • Warning - Never put your boat in reverse to pick someone up out of the water, always circle around going forward while keeping the person in the water visible to the boat operator at all times.

Engine Cut-Off Switch – FAQ

A list of frequently asked questions about Engine Cut-Off Switches.

ENGINE/PROPULSION CUT-OFF DEVICES FAQ

Q1. What is an Engine Cut-off Switch (ECOS)?
A1. An Engine Cut-Off Switch is a safety mechanism used to shut off propulsion machinery when the operator is displaced from the helm.
 
Q2. What is an Engine Cut-Off Switch Link (ECOSL)?
A2. An ECOSL is the device that connects the operator to the ECOS. The link must be attached to the operator, the operator’s clothing, or operator’s personal floatation device. It is typically a coiled lanyard, but may also be an electronic fob.
 
Q3. Who needs to use an Engine Cut-off Switch Link ECOSL?
A3. All operators of recreational boats less than 26’ in length that have an Engine Cut-Off Device installed.
 
Q4. Why is it important to use an Engine Cut-Off Switch Link?
A4. Boats can make sudden and forceful turns that create enough torque to eject an operator from the helm area or completely out of the boat. If thrown out of the boat, there is always the danger of a spinning propeller, especially since an unmanned boat can often start traveling in circles at the point where the ejection took place. Wearing your Engine Cut-Off Switch Link immediately stops the engine and allows the operator to regain control of the boat.
 
Q5. What are the benefits of using my Engine Cut-Off Switch  and Engine Cut-Off Switch Link?
A5. Engine cut-off switches are an important tool to prevent unnecessary accidents, injuries and deaths caused by a recreational vessel operator being unexpectedly displaced from the helm. This includes situations where the operator is ejected from the vessel, which typically leads to a runaway vessel. In these scenarios anyone in the water is a potential propeller-strike victim, all other vessels on the water face a collision hazard, and maritime law enforcement officers face additional risk in trying to bring the runaway vessel to a stop.
 
Q6. What boats need to have an Engine Cut-Off Switch installed?
A6. Boats less than 26 feet in length that generate more than 115lbs of static thrust (~ 2-3hp) and were built beginning in January 2020.  If the boats’ primary helm is inside an enclosed cabin it is not required to have an Engine Cut-Off Switch.
 
Q7. I recently bought a 2020 model year boat; am I required to ensure that  the Engine Cut-Off Switch and Engine Cut-Off Switch Link work?
A7. Maybe. It depends on when the boat was built. If the boat was built in January 2020 or later, the Engine Cut-Off Switch systems must be maintained in working condition for the life of the boat. Just like navigation lights or exhaust blowers.
 
Q8. What is a "covered recreational vessel"?
A8. The term "covered recreational vessel" means a recreational vessel that is (A) less than 26 feet overall in length; and (B) capable of developing 115 pounds or more of static thrust (which equates to about 3 horsepower).
 
Q9. My boat doesn’t have an Engine Cut-Off Switch, do I need to install one?
A9. No, unless the boat was built on or after 1 JAN 2020. The installation requirement applies to manufacturers, distributors and dealers of “covered recreational vessels” after 1 JAN 2020. For those boats, an Engine Cut-Off Switch must be installed and the owner is required to maintain it.
 
Q10. How do I tell if my boat was built after 1 January 2020?
A10. The ECOS installation requirement was implemented in the middle of the 2020 model year, so determining the model year is the first step. This is done by checking your boats hull identification number (HIN), which all boats are required to have. The HIN is usually found on the starboard outboard side of the transom, but can also be found on the boat’s certificate of number (i.e., registration).
Characters 11 and 12 of the HIN represent the model year. If the model year is 19 or lower, the boat DOES NOT need an ECOS to be installed. If the model year is 21 or later, the boat DOES need an ECOS to be installed. If the model year is 20, then the date of certification needs to be determined.
Characters 9 and 10 represent the date of certification of the boat. Character 9 represents the month, A-L for January-December, respectively. The 10th character represents the year of certification, with the last digit corresponding to the last digit of a specific year (e.g., “0” = 2020). For a model year 2020 boat to be required to have an ECOS installed, it would have an “A0” – “G0” certification date for the 9th and 10th characters of the HIN, and “20” for the 11th and 12th characters of the HIN. Please note that a “0” as the 10th character of the HIN could represent 2010 or any other year ending in a “0” including 2020, which is why the model year represented by the 11th and 12th characters must be considered (e.g., “A010” would represent a boat certified in January 2010, and “E000” would represent a boat certified in May 2000.)
 
Q11. Are there exemptions to the Engine Cut-Off Switch law?
A11. The laws are only applicable to recreational vessels, so they do not apply to law enforcement vessels or other government-owned vessels. There are two exemptions for recreational vessels. The first is there is no requirement to wear the Engine Cut-Off Switch Link if either the main helm of the covered vessel is installed within an enclosed cabin, or if the vessel does not have an engine cut-off switch and is not required to have one.
 
Q12. Do I need to keep the Engine Cut-Off Switch Link attached at all times?
A12. No. The Engine Cut-Off Switch Link doesn’t need to be attached when the vessel is idling or performing docking maneuvers. The Engine Cut-Off Switch Link must be attached whenever the boat is operating on plane or greater than displacement speed
 
Q13. What does “on plane” mean?
A13. For a boat, “on plane” means the boat has reached a speed that moves the boat from a “displacement” mode to a “planing” mode. As more power (and speed) is applied, lift increases, and the boat, in effect, rides over its bow wave, reducing wetted area of the hull and thus reducing drag. At this point, the boat is said to be "on a plane" or simply "planing." Sailing vessels are generally not capable of getting “on plane” because of their displacement hull, whereas a ski boat, bass boat or runabout can usually achieve planing with little effort.
 
Q14. How does the Engine Cut-Off Switch work?
A14. When the operator moves, or is thrown, a certain distance away from the Engine Cut-Off Switch, the link is disengaged from the switch. This causes the engine to shut off. Once the link is reinstalled to the switch, the boat can be restarted.
 
Q15. To what size boats and horsepower does the new Engine Cut-Off Switch laws apply?
A15. The law applies to all boats less then twenty-six (26) feet in length that generate more than 115lbs of static thrust, which is approximately 3 horsepower.
 
Q16. My boat has an enclosed wheelhouse, am I required to wear the Engine Cut-Off Switch Link?
A16. No, the law gives an exemption to recreational vessels where the main helm of the covered vessel is installed within an enclosed cabin
 
Q17. My new 25-foot boat that I purchased in 2020 has an Engine Cut-Off Switch installed by the manufacturer. Do I need to use it?
A17. Yes. Assuming the main helm is not in an enclosed cabin. Because your boat is less than 26-feet and equipped with an engine cut-off switch installed by the manufacturer, you will need to use it while the boat is on plane or above displacement speed.
 
Q18. My 22-foot boat (1995 model) had an Engine Cut-Off Switch but it was removed by a prior owner many years ago, leaving a hole at the helm. Do I need to repair it and use it?
A18. No. However, the Coast Guard recommends that your repair the switch and use it when operating on plane or above displacement speed.
 
Q19. My 18-foot boat (2019 model) has an Engine Cut-Off Switch but it is broken and does not function. Do I need to use it?
A19. No. However, the Coast Guard recommends that your repair the Engine Cut-Off Switch and use it when operating on plane or above displacement speed.
 
Q20. My 27-foot boat has a working Engine Cut-Off Switch. Do I need to use it while operating on plane or above displacement speed?
A20. No. The law does not require the use of an Engine Cut-Off Switch for any vessel equal to or greater than 26-feet in length, regardless of when the vessel was manufactured. However, the Coast Guard recommends that your repair the switch and use it when operating on plane or above displacement speed.
 
Q21. My 26-foot sailboat has a 50 horsepower engine that allows me to travel on plane / above displacement speed. Do I need to use an Engine Cut-Off Switch?
A21. No. Regardless of when it was built, a boat 26-feet in length and greater does not require use of an engine cut-off switch, even if equipped.
 
Q22. My new 20-foot boat that was purchased in January 2020 doesn’t have an engine cut-off switch. Is it supposed to have an ECOS and do I need to use one?
A22. If you purchased a boat in 2020, there is a good chance that boat was built before the ECOS installation requirement was in place. The ECOS installation requirement was implemented in the middle of the 2020 model year, so determining the model year is the first step in determining whether or not your boat is required to have an ECOS. This is done by checking your boats’ hull identification number (HIN), which all boats are required to have. The HIN is usually found on the starboard outboard side of the transom, but can also be found on the boat’s certificate of number (i.e., registration).  Characters 9 and 10 represent the date of certification of the boat. Character 9 represents the month, A-L for January-December, respectively. The 10th character represents the year of certification, with the last digit corresponding to the last digit of a specific year (e.g., “0” = 2020). For a model year 2020 boat to be required to have an ECOS installed, it would have an “A0” – “G0” certification date for the 9th and 10th characters of the HIN, and “20” for the 11th and 12th characters of the HIN. Please note that a “0” as the 10th character of the HIN could represent 2010 or any other year ending in a “0” including 2020, which is why the model year represented by the 11th and 12th characters must be considered (e.g., “A010” would represent a boat certified in January 2010, and “E000” would represent a boat certified in May 2000.) If the boat has an ECOS installed you have to use it.
 
Q23. I bought my 22-foot boat many years ago and it did not have an engine cut-off device installed by the manufacturer, so last year I added a new wireless engine cut-off devices. Am I required to use it?
A23. Yes. If an engine cut-off switch is present, it must be used.

Propeller Guard Test Protocol

The United States Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety announced the release of the Propeller Guard Test Procedure report developed for the Coast Guard under the auspices of the American Boat and Yacht Council. This procedure is intended for use by developers of propeller guard devices and independent third party testing entities to test propeller guard products in a consistent, repeatable manner.

References:

https://uscgboating.org/



Veronica Jeans, Ecommerce Queen
Veronica Jeans, Ecommerce Queen

Author

Veronica is the Shopify Queen and best selling author of ‘Shopify Made Easy’ - Step-by-step Blueprint to Launch Your Online Store! Veronica supports retail and online store owners how to build and negotiate all the intricacies of running their business online. She integrates her extensive knowledge in the field of eCommerce and Shopify, along with my international business, financial, and tax expertise, to get my customers to launch successful online stores.




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