SC Senate passes boater education bill

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to emphasize that individuals over age 16 would be grandfathered in should the bill pass, as well as to reflect the exemptions under Section 3.

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – The SC Senate on Thursday passed a boating safety bill, updating requirements on boater education courses offered by the SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).

According to the bill, SCDNR “must administer a boating education course,” and all approved courses must be listed on the department’s website.

Upon completion of the course, SCDNR is required to issue a boating safety certificate to participants.

According to the bill, people operating a boat with an engine of 10HP or greater, a personal watercraft, or a specialty popcraft are required to have a boating safety certificate issued by DNR, unless the individual:

(1) was born on or before July 1, 2006;

(2) is in possession of a license to operate a vessel issued by the United States Coast Guard in the person’s name, regardless of the expiration date on the license;

(3) is in possession of a merchant mariner credential issued by the United States Coast Guard in the person’s name, regardless of the expiration date on the credential;

(4) is a nonresident in possession of a boater education certificate, or an equivalency, issued by another state in the nonresident’s name;

(5) is exempt pursuant to a regulation promulgated by the department; or

(6) is accompanied by a person at least eighteen years old who:

(a) is in possession of a South Carolina boating safety certificate issued by the department in the person’s name; or

(b) meets one of the criteria in items (1) through (5) of this subsection.

Boaters like John Seibels have spent years on South Carolina waters. He believes this bill can give some consistency.

“I think it would be nice to at least have everyone on the same playing field as far as knowing the regulations,” Seibels says.

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources spokesman David Lucas emphasized that individuals 16 and over will be grandfathered in and not required to take a boater education class, though SCDNR recommends it as a way to ensure important boating safety skills and knowledge are up to date:

“You’re going to learn some new things, you are going to brush up on some old things that you have probably learned over the years but maybe aren’t top of mind right now, its just a good thing to do.”

David Lucas

The bill now must be taken up by the SC House of Representatives.