New law designed to save lives

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What is the law?

A new carbon monoxide (CO) law for Minnesota boaters (Sophia’s Law) goes into effect: May 1, 2017.* the law requires that:

  • all motorboats, regardless of fuel type, with an enclosed accommodation compartment be equipped with a functioning marine CO detection system
  • all gasoline-powered motorboats with an enclosed occupancy compartment display a total of three CO warning stickers

*see www.mndnr.gov/boatingsafety for updates

What does this mean for my boat?

Carbon monoxide detector and warning sticker requirements depend on whether your boat has an enclosed accommodation compartment, an enclosed occupancy compartment, or no enclosed compartments at all.

An enclosed accommodation compartment is defined as having all three of the following spaces:

  • designated sleeping accommodations
  • a galley area with a sink, and
  • a head (toilet) compartment

On boats with all three of these spaces, a CO detector is required in each of the sleeping quarters and in the main cabin area per the American Boat and Yacht Council A-25 Standard.

A CO detector is not required, but is strongly recommended on boats with an enclosed occupancy compartment. Enclosed occupancy compartment is defined as:

  • one contiguous space with the boat that may be occupied by a person.

All gasoline-powered motorboats with an enclosed occupancy compartment must display three CO warning stickers (provided by the DNR).

The CO warning stickers must be placed:

  • at the helm (steering station)
  • at the aft boarding/stern area
  • in or at the entrance to any enclosed occupancy space

Motorboats with diesel engines are not required to display the warning stickers, but are strongly encouraged to do so, especially if they also have generators or other fuel burning appliances. CO detectors are required on diesel-powered boats with an enclosed accommodation compartment.

What are the dangers of carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide can concentrate within, alongside or behind a boat in seconds. CO is a potentially deadly gas produced when a carbon-based fuel, such as gasoline, propane or charcoal, burns. Sources on your boat include gasoline engines, generators, cooking ranges, and space and water heaters. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness, which can often times be confused with seasickness or intoxication. Prolonged exposure to low concentrations or very short exposure to high concentrations can lead to death.

Where can CO accumulate?

Carbon monoxide can accumulate anywhere in or around your boat. How to protect yourself:

  • Keep engine and exhaust properly maintained.
  • Ventilate enclosed spaces including canvas and three-sided enclosures.
  • Stay off the back deck and the swim platform while the engine is running.
  • Keep back at least 20 feet during towed activities—especially tubing.

My boat isn’t required to have stickers, what should I do with them?

Some boat owners may receive the warning stickers even though their boat does not require them. The law requires that the stickers be sent to all owners of motorboats 19 feet or greater to help educate boaters about the dangers of carbon monoxide. It is recommended to display the warning stickers at the helm and stern—areas where carbon monoxide can accumulate, even on boats without enclosures.

Owners of boats under 19 feet, other boats with enclosed spaces or boats documented by the U.S. Coast Guard, can find stickers at all deputy registrars, at many local marinas, or by request from the DNR.