Coast Guard reminds boaters of new engine cut-off switch law

Boat engine safety kill switch lanyard emergency cut-out cord. Image-Walmart

JUNEAU, Alaska – The Coast Guard reminds mariners of a new law requiring pleasure craft to use an engine shutoff switch (ECOS) and associated ECOS link (ECOSL). An ECOS is an emergency ignition cut-off device that stops the engine if the operator is thrown from the vessel or falls overboard.

On April 1, 2021, the law came into force requiring operators of pleasure craft with an ECOS installed to use an ECOS link, which is usually a lanyard clipped to the person or the operator’s life jacket. This law applies to all boats under 26 feet in length that generate more than 115 pounds of static thrust (around 3 horsepower) and were built as of January 2020. It also requires operators to use the ECOSL when operating in airplanes or above ground speed.

“With warmer weather, the Coast Guard expects to see an increase in water-related activities,” said Cmdr. Byron Hayes, head of the Juneau sector response service. “In the past two months we have had two known incidents involving fleeing ships in Alaskan waters. One of these resulted in a fatality, so we want the public to understand the importance of using engine cut-off switches and an attached link. “

Observers from the Coast Guard’s Juneau Sector Command Center responded to a report Wednesday night of two people in the water after being thrown from a fleeing skiff near Spuhn Island. Alaska State soldiers responded to a similar incident in April where two men were thrown from a fleeing skiff, resulting in the death of one.

Engine cut-off switches are an important tool in preventing accidents, injuries and unnecessary death caused by a pleasure boat operator being unexpectedly moved from the helm. This includes situations where the operator is thrown from the vessel, which usually leads to a fleeing vessel.

“Accidents involving fleeing vessels can be extremely dangerous,” said Michael Folkerts, boating safety specialist for the Coast Guard’s 17th District. “In situations where the operator is thrown from the boat, the boat can start circling the person in the water. They are then in immediate danger of being struck by the boat or the propeller. “

These new requirements will improve the safety of all boaters by reducing the risk of propeller injury from fleeing boats with the operator moved off the helm and not using ECOSL.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is one of the many organizations that offer valuable boating safety courses ranging from electronic navigation to boat handling: information on courses in your area can be found at The state of Alaska offers an online boating safety course: information can be found at

Where possible, your local attendant responds to Vessel Security Check (VSC) requests. VSCs may not be widely available due to the necessary precautions against COVID-19, but the US Coast Guard Auxiliary has put an interactive program on the site that guides a boater through the safety equipment to transport and the precautions to be taken.

Learn more about engine cut-off switches at,unexpectedly%20displaced%20from%20the%20vessel.

To learn more about boating safety, visit the National Safe Boating Council at


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