Safe Inland Boating

following is from a writeup sent to Local Govt Department for inclusion of "safety" aspect in general regulations on inland boating. Cited in end

GENERAL safety regulation

  • Provision of Weather Forecast and Warnings for different Spatial and Temporal Domains: Seldom is that boat owners invest in weather radars or devices which download weather forecast, it is essential that particular Tehsil/Town Govts provide (a) 3-6 hours forecast of location at wharf as well as 3 days forecast of the general area (b) provide start-point, enroute, end-point forecast for journey of more than 2 hours (c) Update & provide in case of bad weather forecast more frequently, (d) Forecast may include heavy rains, if any. Modes of communication may include printed flier, SMS etc and in extreme conditions, hoisting of suitable flags for banning boating operations till conditions improve. Less number of passengers may be permitted in adverse weather or river conditions;
  • Provision of Flood Forecasts: Atleast 6 hours in advance with presumptive next 24 hours, at wharf, consisting of start-point, en-route and end-point of journey. This may include “level forecast” for rivers/waterways and “inflow forecast” for dams/reservoirs, as the case may be;
  • Registration Number and Seating Capacity: Town/Tehsil administration with jurisdiction may carry out registration of boats and this number may be prominently displayed in shape of plate and marked on the boat in a particular place as decided. Similarly, as overloading is one of the most frequent reasons of boat accidents, after it has been determined which is maximum number of persons, or maximum weight, which could be safely carried, this should also be included in registration document, and displayed on boat in shape of “Fit For Purpose” certificate;
  • General arrangement plan: A drawing of the boat that lists all necessary statistics and operating information such as overall length, carrying capacity when fully loaded, fuel capacity, and so forth, may also be posted on the boat in addition to inclusion in registration documents;
  • Monitoring and Examination, including of Maintenance: “Certification Body” must set in place system for monitoring and periodical examination of boats including out of water examination every 2 years-of the hull, propulsion system etc and its proper documentation;
  • Safety Briefings: At the start of every voyage or trip, the boat operator or other responsible crew members should give safety briefing to passengers. The safety briefing should consist of restrictions about the movement on board, emergency procedures, location of emergency exits, stowage and use of personal protective equipment such as life jackets and life buoys. This briefing may also include: (a) Location of life-saving equipment, fire-fighting equipment (b) procedure for recovery of person from water (c) Procedure of operating communication equipment on board. One suitably bodied and abled passenger will be informed of rudimentary method of starting, stopping, and controlling the main engine and method of navigating to a suitable place of safety.
  • Wharfs/Jetties: Tehsil/Town Govts may provide proper infrastructures at each wharf/Jetty for embarkation and disembarkation. It is safety-wise important that proper stairways and landings are provided for varying water levels for embarkation/disembarkation.
  • Manning – Boat Operator: Certification body may set in place qualifications for Boat Operator, which may include minimum age, licensing by competent authority as skilled or semi-skilled, experience, training qualifications especially on equipment, medical fitness certificates, Able bodied skilled boatmen having greater knowledge of local conditions may only be allowed for boats carrying more than 20-25 passengers.
  • Annual Boat Safety Check: Tehsil/Town Administration having jurisdiction may also cause to carry out an annual Boat Safety Check. Some of the essentials checked may include, but not be limited to,: Registration, documentation, floatation devices, navigation lights, ventilation, communication devices including radio, dewatering devices, fire extinguishing equipment, First Aid kit, and other essentials.

Construction and structural strength

  • Construction and Structural Strength: As traditional methods and practices still abound in boat design and construction, boats are mechanized using different engine and propeller systems without any emphasis on safety, it is essential that standards for “Construction and Structural Strength” are laid down, making them implementable on new Boats first. These standards must be implemented through a “Certification Body” as provided for in the Inland Mechanically Propelled Boats Act 1917 and/or the Ferries Act, 1878 or through fresh regulations
  • The design of the hull structure, its construction, and the materials and equipment used should be suitable for the service intended, and provide adequate strength and service life for the safe operation of the boat at its service draught and maximum speed. The design should also withstand the conditions likely to be encountered in the intended area of operation;
  • Freeboard and Stability: Freeboard (minimum vertical distance from the waterline to top of deck at side in case of a decked boat or to the top of side in an open boat) may be clearly assigned values, and the “Certification Body” must ensure determination of maximum weight or maximum passengers based on Freeboard value.
  • Weathertight Integrity: A boat should be constructed so that in the most extreme conditions expected in the area of operation, openings do not allow ready ingress of water, which might threaten the safety of the boat and those onboard.
  • Propulsion system & auxiliary engine: Separate safety measures may be drawn for Diesel, Petrol, Steam, LPG, Electricity propulsion systems. In bigger boats, or those crossing distances more than an hour single way, a small auxiliary engine may be gotten installed with separate systems;
  • Alternate Electric/Lighting System: When lighting is provided through centralized electric system an alternate system of lighting should be installed too as a back-up in case of emergency. ud b there to
  • General Design: The general design should not be restrictive. It should enable people to make their way to open deck, deploy life saving devices safely, illuminate man-overboard rescue equipment and rescue areas, permit work on essential machinery and provide proper accommodation to livestock animals (being covered separately later). Batteries should be firmly secured in position, tiller or oar should be provided for emergency when main steering fails etc.
  • Means of Escape: The means of escape should be such that a single hazardous event will not cut off all possible escape routes with number of passengers in view, Sufficient handholds, grab-rails, guardrails and guard-wires should be provided to protect persons from falling overboard from deck.
  • Prevention of pollution: An oil-tight tray made of metal or other suitable material should be fitted beneath every engine and gearbox so as to prevent leakage of oil escaping into any part of boat or overboard. No sanitation system capable of discharging sewage overboard should be fitted in the boat unless it is capable of being sealed or rendered inoperable.



  • Life Saving Equipment:  Each boat should have approved life saving equipment sufficient for the number of persons that can be carried on board.
  • Personal Floatation Devices / Life Jackets: Each boat must carry one wearable life jacket (as per standard) for each person on board. In case of children and minors, the life jackets should be as per specification applicable to them. Life jackets must be worn at all times during the journey.
  • Throwable Floatation Devices: Any boat with length 16 feet or more, and mechanized, must have throwable floatation devices too, including buoyant cushions, ring buoys and horse-shoe buoys. These should be placed on main deck, hanging from a life-line and easily reachable.
  • First Aid box: A First Aid box with standard contents for passengers and crew must be onboard at all times. Special care should be taken to check its contents each time a voyage starts and that the boat operator is trained in basic first aid.
  • Bilge Pumping/ Drainage Arrangements:  All boats should have means of bilge pumping either by a power driven pump or a hand pump so that all compartments can be drained during emergency. In machinery spaces, a holding tank is recommended for oily bilges to prevent water pollution. In case of small open boats operating in areas with small wave height, drainage with the help of bailers or buckets may be sufficient.


  • Safety Standards – Fire Safety of Fuel Storage (Mechanized boats): The storage container should be composed of metal and fitted in such a manner that the possibility of leaks/spills may be averted. The container should be stored upright and secured to prevent shifting or fall over with the movement of the boat. They should also be located away from the direct sources of heat and should be made of fire resistant materials. The container should be properly labeled according to contents like materials stored, hazard signs, no smoking/ignition sources etc.
  • Safety Measures for Petrol Engines and Petrol Fuels: The fixed petrol tanks should not be located within 3 feet of any engine or heating appliance unless insulated and protected by fire resistant materials. The fuel level indicators should be designed in such a way that it should not allow fuel to escape in the event of damage. All the fixed fuel feed pipes should be of metallic type. The flexible pipes should be of fire resistant materials.
  • Fire pump:  A boat of 15 feet and above in length should carry hand pumps or power driven pumps with hose  connections capable of delivering a jet of water to any part of the boat through hose and nozzles.
  • Fire Extinguishers:  At least one multipurpose portable fire extinguisher of a recognized standard may be carried in all boats, which should be kept outside the engine space. In addition, one multipurpose fire extinguisher should be placed at each exit from accommodation spaces to open decks, where applicable. In addition, Fire Buckets and Lanyards may also be provided for by the boat owner. All firefighting equipment should be in good condition at all times.
  • Items NOT to be carried on board:  As a precautionary measure (a) Lamps powered by liquefied gas or liquid oil, (b) Vaporizing oil burner stoves, (c) Solid fuel heaters, (d) Devices fitted with wick burners and (e) Liquefied gas devices, should NOT be carried on any boat.
  • Smoking shall be strictly prohibited in the boats.


  • Charging Devices:  Arrangements of charging facilities for batteries should be ensured on board, so that boats machineries are started /operated through batteries smoothly. In other boats where battery is the sole means of starting the engine, provisions be made duplicate batteries with change over switches for emergency uses.
  • Lighting Arrangements:  When lighting within the boat is provided through a centralized electrical system, an alternative source of lighting should be provided for emergency use. This may be ensured by means of torches provided on board. Alternative source of lighting is to be ensured for the movement of people, deployment of life saving appliances and to work on essential machinery. 
  • Steering Arrangements: Each boat should be provided with effective means of steering.  Emergency steering arrangements are recommended where there are safety risks of passengers due to main steering failure. This may be in the form of a tiller which can be attached to the rudder stock or steering oar depending on the area of operation.
  • Communication Equipment: In order to disseminate distress communication, all boat operators should carry emergency communication equipment. The mobile phones are normally sufficient for this purpose provided operation area has signal coverage. In other cases portable VHF may be required. VHF equipment may either be contained in a water-proof housing or may by manufacture be water proof.
  • The authorities to be informed in case of emergency should be clearly indicated on board. Also, Card(s) giving a clear summary of the distress communications, urgency and safety procedures to be displayed
  • Navigation Lights: Boats operating at night should be equipped with navigation lights. Standard Navigation Lights are required for use during periods of restricted visibility such as fog, rain, haze etc
  • Visual Distress Signals: Orange Distress Flag (used as a day-time signal only), must be atleast 3×3 feet with a black square on an orange background, flown from the mast or waved. While hand-held flares, parachute flares, smoke signals are also visual distress signals, they are NOT recommended without the boat operator properly trained in their deployment.
  • Electric Distress Signal/Light for Night Use: High-intensity white light flashing at regular intervals (50-70 times per minute). 
  • Sound Producing Devices: Sound Producing Devices are required to make sound signals in certain circumstances like crossing and overtaking, but also to communicate safety issues during periods of reduced visibility.
  • Anchoring and Mooring:  In order to prevent drifting of boats in the area of operations during calm weather in general and harsh conditions in particular, suitable anchoring equipment on board like Anchors, Cables and Ropes may be made mandatory.
  • Aids to Navigation: Tehsil/Town administration concerned may be encumbered to place navigation buoys in waterways/rivers/water reservoirs in its jurisdiction to mark safe water and hidden danger and assist boat operators in determining their position more accurately.   

           Transport of livestock

  • Transport area within boat: Transport area of livestock should be separate than humans. It should have (a) adequate ventilation to avoid ammonia effect on passengers and boat operator (b) a non-slip floor with proper drainage (c) protection from sun and rain (d) proper on-loading and off-loading platforms. The surfaces of the sides of the holding area should be smooth and should not have protrusions or sharp edges. Sides of holding area should be high enough to prevent animals jumping and injuring themselves.
  • Horned and horn-less animals should not be mixed. Weight of animals should generally be equally distributed. Loading Ramps should have non-slip surfaces.
  • Floor Space/Area: Sufficient floor space needs to be reserved for livestock so that they can stand comfortably. Over-crowding results in injuries and death. Recommended area is (a) Mature Cattle 15 sft, (b) Small Calves 3.5 sft, (c) Sheep/Goat 4.5 sft.


  • Health and Safety Regulations: The operator of a boat is responsible for the health and safety of anyone working on the boat.
  • Differently Abled passengers: Special Arrangements need to be made for differently abled passengers, especially those whose movement is restricted and may cause concern for their safety.
  • Non-Mechanized, Sports vehicles, pleasure boat: Non-mechanized, sports and pleasure craft have their own clubs which mostly regulate safety standards and hence, their safety measures may be got covered through those organizations.
  • Drug Use & Fitness: Strict cognizance is required to be put into law for any boat operator operating under influence, be it prescription drugs, drug-use or alcohol consumption. Regular medical tests under supervision may be provided for and persons with medical conditions such as Epileptic seizures, Problems with heart rhythm, disease of the heart or arteries, Blood pressure controlled by drugs, Diabetes controlled by Insulin, Double or tunnel vision etc may not be allowed to operate boats.


1. Small Boats safety regulations Canada, UK, USA
2. Boating Safety Guidelines, NDMA India
3. Livestock safe transport regulations Australia
4. Other material available on net
5. Mechanized Vessels Act 1917
6. Ferries Act, 1878