f you’re the owner of a Florida boat rental business, we want to make sure you’re aware of the Florida Boating Safety Act of 2022 (SB 606), which was passed in March, signed by Governor DeSantis in June, and goes into effect January 1, 2023.
The law will require rental businesses to obtain a no-cost, annual livery permit from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and implement certain requirements including providing safety instruction to renters. There will be penalties for violations, so it’s important for rental businesses to get up to speed now on any changes they may need to make in their daily operations.
Why was the Florida Boating Safety Act created?
The law is meant to improve safe rental and use of maritime vessels after a surge in boating accidents. According to a report put out by the FWC, there were 105 accidents in Miami-Dade in 2020, five of which resulted in death and 46 caused injuries. The FWC reported 836 boating accidents throughout the state of Florida in 2020 — a figure significantly higher than the previous yearly average of 722. Also since 2020, there’s been an increase in the number of rental and tour companies operating illegally and failing to comply with current safety regulations. Lack of due diligence by these illegal operators led to the occurrence of several of these accidents. The law is meant to crack down on crime while also encouraging better education around boating safety for all water enthusiasts.
Who championed the Florida Boating Safety Act?
The bill was co-authored by Florida State Senator Ileana Garcia and State Representative Adam Botana. Botana’s family has been in the boat rental industry for decades and has said the new rules should not affect legitimate businesses that have already been following safety guidelines. As Senator Garcia said in a statement, “The Boating Safety Act of 2022 protects Floridians and visitors, our marine life and natural resources by addressing the harmful actions of bad actors while ensuring an uninterrupted use of our waterways by responsible enthusiasts and supporting boater education.”
What exactly do the new rules require of boat and water sports rental operators?
In addition to requiring rental operators to provide safety instruction to all renters, the law also requires them to obtain more comprehensive information from customers. A written rental agreement must include:
- The renter’s name, address, and date of birth
- The number of people who will be aboard the vessel
- Emergency contact name, address, and telephone number
- The time the vessel is required to be returned
If a renter is more than 4 hours late returning the vessel to the agreed-upon location, the authorities must be notified.
Note that rental operators are required to keep the above information on file for at least one year after the date of the rental in case law enforcement makes a request to inspect it.
How will the new rules be enforced?
Local law enforcement will be on the lookout to ensure that rental companies and their customers are complying with the rules. If an officer believes there are issues, or if there have been complaints, a rental business may receive a visit and be asked to provide documentation for inspection.
What happens to those who violate the rules within the Boating Safety Act?
Fines are being increased for violations, ranging from a minimum of $100 to several thousand dollars for repeat offenders. Violations include (but are not limited to) operating with an expired registration, failing to meet safety requirements, and of course, boating under the influence. Read through the complete statute around vessel safety here to be sure you’re familiar with all regulations that pertain to your rental business. For updates on insurance requirements, visit myfwc.com.
How to Be Compliant with the Florida Boating Safety Act
You want to make sure to gather the required renter and emergency contact information before the customer arrives for the rental. Gathering this information in the store or at the dock is error-prone and will slow down the check-in process, which can result in a bad customer experience. Read our article How to be compliant with the Florida Boating Safety Act SB 606 to learn how you can automate the process.