The purpose of this analysis was to identify the 10 most common deficiencies to help Small Passenger Vessel Owners by shedding some light on vessel problems that they can rectify prior to scheduling their next Coast Guard examination.

The top 10 deficiencies, including a brief explanation of the deficiency, applicable regulation, and potential correction methods are provided below. These deficiencies are not listed in any specific order.

Additional information regarding Domestic Vessel Inspection is available on the Sector’s Homeport website at

More information can be found under the Domestic Vessels (Streamlined Inspection Program) section at the following website to assist you with performing a self inspection of your passenger vessel prior to your annual Coast Guard examination:

All light fixtures that may be subject to damage must have a guard or be made of high strength material. Light fixtures on the open weather deck, engine room, or other machinery space must be protected with guards. Lights in accommodation spaces are normally exempted from this requirement
because they are not subject to damage. (46 CFR 183.410)

All small passenger vessels that are certificated to operate on the high seas or three miles beyond the coastline of the Great Lakes must have a FCC Type Accepted Category 1, 406 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radiobeacon (EPIRB) installed in a float free system on board the vessel.
The Marine Inspectors discovered that many small passenger vessels failed to replace the hydrostatic release prior to its expiration date. Vessel owners/operators should inspect their EPIRBs routinely and ensure that they operate properly. The hydrostatic release unit for the EPIRB must be replaced prior to expiration to ensure that it will successfully release the EPIRB should the vessel sink. (46 CFR 180.64)

All certificated small passenger vessels must carry appropriate navigational charts that cover the area in which they operate. These charts must be kept current using regularly published Notices to Mariners. Many vessels that received deficiencies for outdated or missing navigation charts were also found to be missing other required nautical publications which include the U.S. Coast Pilot, Coast Guard Light List, Tide Tables, and Current Tables. Vessels may use extracts from these publications in lieu of maintaining the complete publication on their vessel. (46 CFR 184.420)

All certificated small passenger vessels must have a first aid kit approved under 33 CFR 160.041 or one that contains all required contents listed in 160.041. The most common deficiency with first aid kits is expired medications. When an expired medication is discovered, it must be replaced promptly. Individual items in CG approved first aid kits may be replaced as necessary with equivalent medications. Just because one item in a first aid kit is expired does not mean that the whole kit must be replaced! (46 CFR 184.710 & 33 CFR 160.041)

All cables or wires must serve some piece of equipment or system onboard the vessel. In situations where a piece of equipment or system is removed and not replaced, the cable or wire that serviced the equipment or system must also be properly removed from the power supply. (46 CFR 183.340)

Routine examinations of a vessel’s hull both internally and externally are critical to the safety of a vessel. Wood vessels are notorious for having wasted wood planking and deteriorated fasteners. Steel and Aluminum hulled vessels are prone to get cracked welds following allisions with objects such as docks and also due to routine operations in rough seas. Steel is also prone to rusting, especially in areas where the plating is uncoated or where the coating may have failed. Fiberglass hulled vessels are also subject to hull deterioration due to delamination, blisters, or cracks/knicks in the gel coat which can allow water to permeate through the various layers of fiberglass and weaken the hull
structure. Vessel owners/operators should make a concerted effort to examine all accessible internal hull components including through hull fittings on a regular basis. Identifying problems early can prevent costly repairs or even major hull damage in the future. (46 CFR 189.40; NVIC 7-68; NVIC 8-87; NVIC 7-95)

All certificated small passenger vessels greater than 26 feet, regardless of build date, must have visual and audible bilge high level alarms for normally unmanned spaces that might flood, whether from a fractured through-hull fitting below the deepest load waterline, spaces containing charged sea water sea water piping, and spaces with a non-watertight closure, such as a space with a non-watertight hatch on the main deck. Vessels constructed of wood must also provide bilge level alarms in all
watertight compartments except small buoyancy chambers. Testing bilge level alarms and visual indicators are relatively easy to perform and should be conducted on a regular basis to ensure proper operation of the bilge alarm system. (46 CFR 182.530)

As per Table 182.520(a), specific small passenger vessels are permitted to have portable hand bilge pumps as a secondary or emergency means of dewatering a space. In many of the examination activities reviewed, vessel owners failed to maintain a portable pump onboard but in most of
the activities, the portable pump was either inoperable or not usable in all spaces of the vessel. The regulations require that the portable hand bilge pump be capable of pumping water from all watertight compartments on the vessel which means that the suction hose must be long enough to reach
the deepest part of the vessel. Vessel owners or operators should test their portable hand bilge pumps on a regular basis to ensure proper operation. (46 CFR 182.520(b))

Marine Radios, EPIRBs, and AIS equipment required to be installed on small passenger vessels must comply with FCC requirements including FCC issued station licenses mandated in 47 CFR 8.13. Many certificated small passenger vessels are issued deficiencies for not having an FCC Station
License for their marine radio. (46 CFR 184.502 & 47 CFR 80.13)

All vessels must have navigation lights in accordance with the International and Inland Navigation Rules. During safety examinations, many vessels are found to have inoperable stern, mast, and sidelights. In some instances the installation of these lights was also found to conflict
with the International and Inland Navigation Rules. Vessels of greater than 65 feet in length must also have navigation lights that are compliant with UL 1104 standards. Though many vessels normally operate in daylight hours only, vessel owners/operators should test their navigational lights
prior to each voyage to ensure proper operation. (46 CFR 183.420)