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MISSISSIPPI'S BOATING
RULES AND REGULATIONS OVERVIEW

The following is an overview of requirements when boating in Mississippi’s waters.

BOAT REGISTRATION

You must have a Mississippi Certificate Number and validation decals to legally operate your vessel on public waters in Mississippi if your boat is motorized or if your boat is a sailboat. The validation decal must be affixed on both sides of the vessel, preceding the prefix letters of the registration number and within six inches of the registration number. If your vessel requires registration, it is illegal to operate or allow others to operate your vessel unless it is registered and numbered as described above.

The Certificate of Number must be onboard and available for inspection by an enforcement officer whenever the vessel is operated.

If a registered vessel is sold or otherwise transferred to another person, the “buyer” must apply for the Certificate of Number to be transferred to his or her name within 10 days of the date of purchase.

Owners of new or used boats may obtain a registration form at any local county tax collector’s office, most places where boats are sold or serviced, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources office, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks district and Jackson offices, or online at www.mdwfp.com.

BOATING EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS

All persons born after June 30, 1980, must have passed a boating education course approved by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to legally operate a vessel.

In addition, to operate a motorboat or a personal watercraft, a person under 12 years of age must also be accompanied onboard by someone who is at least 21 years old. The boating education certificate must be carried onboard the vessel whenever it is operated by someone required to have a certificate.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Marine Patrol offers free approved boating education classes to the public along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Owners of new or used boats may obtain a registration form at any local county tax collector’s office, most places where boats are sold or serviced, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources office, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks district and Jackson offices, or online at www.mdwfp.com.

BOATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

The Alcohol Boating Safety Act makes it unlawful to operate a watercraft on the public waters of the State of Mississippi while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any other substance which has impaired the person’s ability to operate a watercraft.

PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICE (PFD)

All vessels must carry one wearable U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD for each person onboard. In addition, vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have one Type IV U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD onboard and readily accessible.

Anyone12 years of age and younger must wear a Type I, II or III U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD whenever underway in a vessel under 26 feet in length. Each person riding on or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear a Type I, II or III U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD.

Besides being U.S. Coast Guard-approved, all PFDs must be:

  • In good and serviceable condition;
  • Readily accessible, which means you are able to put the PFD on quickly in an emergency; and
  • Of the proper size for the intended wearer. (Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.)

TYPES OF PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICES

Boating experts agree that wearing a PFD is the most important safety step you can take.

TYPE 1

TYPE II

TYPE III

TYPE IV

FIRE EXTINGUISHER

All vessels are required to have a Type B fire extinguisher onboard if one or more of the following conditions exist:

  • Closed compartments under seats where portable fuel tanks are stored;
  • Closed storage compartments in which flammable or combustible materials are stored;
  • Closed living spaces;
  • Permanently installed fuel tanks.

Approved types of fire extinguishers are labeled “Marine Type USCG Approved,” followed by the size and type symbols and the approved number.

SOUND DEVICE

Any vessel less than 39.4 feet (12 meters) in length is required to make an efficient sound signal (horn, whistle or bell) to signal your position in periods of reduced visibility. Vessel operators are required to carry some type of horn or whistle capable of a four-second blast audible for one-half mile for all boats. Athletic whistles are not acceptable on boats over 39.4 feet.

VISUAL DISTRESS SIGNAL

All boats less than 16 feet operating between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with visual distress signals such as flares. Boats larger than 16 feet must always be equipped with visual distress signals.

All boats used on federally controlled waters must be equipped with U.S. Coast Guard-approved (day and night) visual distress signals. All boats on federal waters are required to carry night signals when operating between sunset and sunrise. In addition, the following boats must also carry day signals:

  • Recreational boats 16 feet or longer
  • Non-motorized, open sailboats 26 feet or longer
PERSONAL WATERCRAFT AND TOWING REQUIREMENTS
  • Each person riding on or towed behind a personal watercraft (PWC) must wear a Type I, II or III Coast Guard-approved PFD in Mississippi waters south of I-10.
  • The PWC must be equipped with a self-circling device or lanyard-type ignition-safety switch with the lanyard attached to the operator’s person, clothing or PFD.
  • The PWC may not be operated at an excessive speed within 100 feet of another occupied vessel except in a crossing situation or overtaking in accordance with the navigation rules.
  • The PWC may not jump, or attempt to jump, the wake of another vessel within 100 feet of that vessel and may not follow within 100 feet of a water skier.
  • Every vessel towing a person(s) on water skis, a surfboard or a similar device must have a person older than 10 years of age, in addition to the operator, observing the towed person(s) at all times.
  • If towing a person behind a PWC, the PWC must be rated for at least three people—the driver, the observer and the person being towed.
MARINE LITTER STICKER

The Marine Litter Act of 1989 prohibits the dumping of waste, garbage and other debris from vessels within Mississippi state waters. This includes any type of plastics, such as synthetic rope, fishing nets or garbage bags. Other garbage prohibited includes paper products, glass, metal dunnage, lining and packing materials.

CMR Title 22 Part 10 requires all vessels (including personal watercrafts) on Mississippi marine waters have a clearly marked, closed container for the proper disposal of waste. Throwing waste overboard is punishable with a fine of up to $500 for a first offense and up to $10,000 for the second.

While in marine waters, the marine litter sticker below must be posted on-board vessels and in the passengers’ plain view.

Marine Litter Stickers are free and available at various bait shops, Walmart and Academy stores in the three coastal counties.

BACKFIRE FLAME ARRESTOR, VENTILLATION SYSTEM AND MUFFLER

The requirements vary depending on the size of your vessel. Click here to view our Required Equipment Checklist by vessel.