Frequently Asked Questions

Policy

Administration

Engineering

Lifesaving

Inspection

Training


Policy

What class is my boat?
Small Boat Class Definition
Class A less than 16 feet length overall
Class I 16 to less than 26 feet length overall
Class II 26 to less than 40 feet length overall
Class III 40 to less than 65 feet length overall
Small Research Vessel (SRV) greater than 65 feet length overall but less than 300 gross tons

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What are the responsibilites of a VOC?

Vessel Operations Coordinators (VOC) are responsible for implementing all requirements in accordance with the NOAA Small Boat Standards and Procedures Manual. They are usually on-site at a small boat unit. Some remote locations may have a VOC at a more central facility. A summary of VOC responsibilities broken down by sections of the Manual is located here.

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Why don't we just follow Coast Guard regulations?

This question requires a two-part answer. First, when most people think of USCG regulations for small boats they are referring to minimum safety gear required to be carried aboard RECREATIONAL vessels. This list of safety gear has been developed from the USCG assessement of data collected from the reporting of recreational boating accidents. As such, some requirements may or may not be applicable to NOAA small research motorboats because; (1) NOAA boat operators tend to be more experienced and possess a basic sense of seamanship which is usually greater than the typical recreational boater, and (2) The employment of small research motorboats is not typical of the use of a recreational boat (recreational boaters typically do not deploy heavy gear over the side and usually do not extensively modify their vessels in order to accomplish a specific mission or purpose). The second part of this answer pertains to the broader picture of USCG regulations for all vessels. There is no regulation which pertains solely to the specific employment of small research vessels less than 300 gross tons. Furthermore, all boats owned by NOAA are considered public vessels and are therefore exempt from USCG regulatory oversight.

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What is ABYC?

ABYC is the American Boat and Yacht Council. Full details on their organization can be found at www.abyc.com

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Who is my LOSBO, VOC, or Safety Board Representative?
The Small Boat section of the OMAO Fleet Wiki has the list of current LOSBOs, VOCs and Safety Board representatives. Use your NOAA email username and password for login.

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Administration

What should I think of when formulating a small boat budget?

This links to a list of potential costs of ownership and operation of a small research boat.

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What should I include in a float plan?

All float plans at a minimum should have the name and description of the boat, names of all persons aboard with contact information, itinerary with ETDs and ETAs, mission, communications plan, and signatures for operator(s) and responsible shoreside contact(s). Examples of float plans in use at various NOAA field sites and aboard NOAA ships.

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What documentation do I need for my boat?

It is important to keep all ownership documents from the procurement/transfer of a vessel. All small boats should have a Small Boat Operations Manual (SBOM) and an Annual Risk Assessment. Guidance on creating an SBOM and risk assessments are available in the Small Boat Standards and Procedures Manual. OEM technical manuals should be carried aboard if room allows.

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Where can I order NOAA emblems and flags?

Information can be found at "Ordering U.S. Flags, NOAA Service Flags & Emblems

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Who do I contact to get an MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) number for my VHF radio?

NOAA's Office of Radio Frequency Management (ORFM) provides an application to request an MMSI number for digital select calling (DSC) capable radios. All NOAA radios that require a call sign and MMSI number should be using this site and not going through a commercial vendor like Boat US; NOAA was issued a block of numbers specifically for this purpose.

Several line offices have liaisons with ORFM and requests from those lines should be routed through them.

  • OMAO: Larry Wooten, (541) 867-8755
  • All Other Line Offices: contact Jerry Sullivan, (301) 628-5645

General information on MMSI can be found at http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=mtMmsi

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Engineering

What do I need to do with my boat for winterization & storage?

This article at BoatUS.com has comprehensive information on "Winterizing Your Engine".

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What should I think about when my boat is coming out of storage or coming out of a yard maintenance period?

This article from ABYC's newsletter, "The Reference Point," has information on considerations before bringing your boat back online.

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How will the addition of a crane affect my boat’s stability?

The addition of any weight to a boat can be cause for concern especially when the weight is placed at or above the working deck. The addition of a crane, or even a boom and vang arrangement, to handle weights will tend to raise a boats center of gravity, which in turn, decreases a boat's metacentric height with the result (in english) being that the boat would become less stable. Any significant modification to a boat which has not be designed or evaluated by a qualified naval architect or marine engineer can pose considerable risk to the safety of personnel in the field. Contact the SBP Engineering Coordinator for guidance.

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Lifesaving

What things should I have in a first aid kit?

The US Public Health and Human Services publication "The Ship's Medicine Chest and Medical Aid at Sea" has a chapter devoted to some common items and their usage which may be considered for inclusion in a first aid kit. The inherent risks in the boat's operation must be considered when determining first aid kit inventory as the book is intended to provide guidance for large vessels, not small research motorboats.

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When does the inspection of my life raft expire, the first or last day of the month?

The expiration date of any emergency gear marked with an expiration or inspection date is considered to be the last day of the month marked. For instance, if a liferaft is due for inspection on 1/2011, it is legal to sail with this raft as part of the ship's equipment up until January 31, 2011. In practice however, most people tend to have their gear inspected/certified/overhauled during the anniversary month.

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Inspection

What is the reporting chain for an inspection report (Class III/SRV)?

The reporting chain can be found at the Class III and SRV Inspection section of the Inspections page.

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How do I report my ASBE, SBEX, and/or trailer evaluation?

The easiest way to report your ASBE or SBEX is via the appropriate links on the "Report your ASBE, SBEX, or Trailer Evaluations Online" section of the Inspections page.

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Who is qualified to do an SBEX?

The Small Boat Safety Board has approved several certifications for those persons doing an SBEX. They can be found at the SBEX section of the Inspections page.

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Who should do my boat's ASBE?

Annual Small Boat Evaluations (ASBE) are conducted by Vessel Operations Coordinators (VOC), Commanding Officers (CO), or their designee(s) using the approved ASBE outline and checklist.

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Who do I call to schedule and inspection of my Class III or SRV?

Contact the Small Boat Program Vessel Inspections Coordinator for scheduling, arrangements, and guidance.

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Can the SBP inspector inspect my Class A, I, or II?

Yes, there are certain cases where units can request the SBP Inspection Coordinator to visit their site for Class A, I, or II inspections. If an inspector is at your site for a Class III or SRV annual inspection, you may request that they look at other vessels, but only if time allows and arranged for beforehand. If you have any questions or would like a site visit please contact the SBP directly.

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What standards are used for inspection?

The SBP is currently reviewing standards and applicability. However, inspection standards for most boats will differ based on the nature of employment for the vessel, operations area, number of persons (passengers, crew, scientists) carried aboard, and boat size. Therefore, there are a myriad of regulations that may apply to any given boat. Applicable regulation could come from CFR Subchapter T or C, ABYC Standards and Technical Information Reports for Small Craft, ABS, IMO, etc.

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Training

What are the training requirements to become a NOAA small boat operator?

It depends on the class of boat which will be operated. Details are at Minimumum Required Training for Small Boat Operators.

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Are there any training courses beyond the minimum operator courses for specific line offices/operations?

NOAA does some unique work which require specialized training for some small boat handling. Some local units have developed their own courses for this unique work (ie: inshore surf ops). Some line offices require additional training in their Supplemental Small Boat Policy to address specific issues which their operators may encounter.

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Where can I get some basic outboard motor repair training? Can NOAA provide this type of training?

Local community colleges or vocational schools are a good place to start looking. Engine manufacturers have technician certification for their brands. Depending on demand, a specific NOAA basic outboard engine course may be developed, but currently there is no basic outboard motor training program available within NOAA

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Small Boat Safety Program Vision:
Be the center of expertise for: guidance; training; metrics, both for safety and management; and coordination of regional assets