Although they’ve been around for decades, the U.S. Coast Guard is mandating that all powerboats, less than 26-feet in length, must now (as of April 1, 2021) be equipped with an emergency engine ignition cut-off switch with a lanyard attached to the driver. The new U.S. Coast Guard requirement found in Section 8316 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 is aimed at improving boating safety for millions of Americans who take to the water each year.
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The ECOSL (engine cut-off switch link) attaches the vessel operator to a switch (via a lanyard) that shuts off an engine in the event the vessel operator is displaced from his or her normal driving position at the helm. The ECOSL is typically a lanyard-style cord that attaches to an ECOS in close proximity to the helm, or on the motor itself. When strong tension is applied, the ECOSL is disengaged from the ECOS resulting in the automatic and immediate shut down of the motor.

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ECOS and ECOSL are critical tools used to prevent unnecessary injury and accidents should a recreational vessel operator be dislodged from the helm. According to the Coast Guard, this latest requirement will better protect vessel operators as well as all other marine vessels, operators, and maritime law enforcement officers on the waterwho are at risk when encountering a runaway vessel.

This new mandate also applies to older boats which may not have been equipped with an ECOS device as part of the original equipment. Check with your local marine dealer or service/repair shop if your boat does not comply with the new standard.

For more information, please contact NMMA director of federal government relations, Clay Crabtree at ccrabtree@nmma.org.

CLARIFICATION: THE INITIAL INFO GIVEN FOR THIS NEW U.S. COAST GUARD LAW SUGGESTED THAT ALL BOATS, REGARDLESS OF MODEL YEAR, NEEDED TO BE EQUIPPED WITH AN ECOSL. THIS IS NOT THE CASE -- ONLY BOATS BUILT AFTER JANUARY 1, 2020 MUST BE SO EQUIPPED. THIS LAW IS ALSO FEDERAL, AND WILL ONLY BE ENFORCED BY THE U.S. COAST GUARD.