Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Boating Navigation Law

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New York State Navigation Law

The New York State LegislatureLeaving New York State Parks publishes all the laws of the State on the web. Select the link for Laws of New York at the bottom of the page. The Navigation Law is listed under NAV. Article 3 concerns itself with the navigable waters of the state, while Article 4 covers the conduct of vessels.

The Vehicle and Traffic Law (VAT), Title 11, Article 48, covers the registration of vessels. The Department of Motor VehiclesLeaving New York State Parks administers the registration of vessels, and they have an excellent FAQ that can be accessed on their website.

Laws regarding the use of the lands under the water, including docks, can be found in the Public Lands Law (PBL), Article 6. The Office of General ServicesLeaving New York State Parks administers these provisions.

Lake George also has rules and regulations unique to that waterway. For more information, please visit the Lake George Park Commission'sLeaving New York State Parks website.

Recreational boating in New York State is a $2 billion industry enjoyed by millions of residents and visitors alike. This recreational boating report has been prepared in order to help us better understand why accidents happen while affording possible insights as to how to prevent them.

Boat Registration

Boat Registrations are required by state law for all mechanically propelled boats; this includes small boats, canoes and kayaks with electric motors. All boat registrations are handled by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Follow this link for more information.

Registering your boat is as simple as completing the Motor Vehicle's form MV-82B (pdf)Leaving New York State Parks (application for registration), having the appropriate registration fee, providing proof of ownership (pdf)Leaving New York State Parks, proof of payment of sales taxLeaving New York State Parks (may be paid to Motor Vehicles at time of registration), along with a bill of saleLeaving New York State Parks and you're all set.

I am coming to New York this summer and want to bring my boat. Do I have to register it in New York?

If you are an out of state resident you may operate your registered motorboat for 90 consecutive days without having it registered in New York

Is there an age requirement to register a boat? No. There is no age requirement to own or register a boat in New York.

Where does the validation sticker go? The sticker should be placed 6 inches towards the back of the boat from the registration numbers

Hull Identification Number (HIN)

If you have an older boat, or you have built the boat you may be required to get a hull identification number (HIN) before you can register your boat.

What is a hull identification number?

It is a 12 character serial number that is unique to each boat, similar to a vehicle identification number found on a car. No two boats should have the same HIN.

I sent my form requesting a hull identification number but have not heard back from anyone. Who can I call?

Allow two weeks for processing and mailing of your application to the local marine patrol. After that time you can use the following simple search application to find out which marine patrol your application was sent to.

My boat was built after 1972; why do I need to get one? The HIN is assigned by the manufacturer before it leaves the factory for the dealer. In some cases the HIN may not have been applied, or has been removed or the previous owner never had the HIN recorded on the registration.

I built my own boat; can I assign it a hull identification number? No, boats that are homemade are required to have a HIN also, but it is assigned by the state.

I built my own boat and want to put a motor on it. How do I get a hull identification number? NYS Parks assigns the HIN numbers

What is the process to obtain a Hull Identification Number?
  • Download the form OPS-420 and fill out the form. The directions are on the back of the page
  • Mail the application and two pictures of the boat to the Marine Services Bureau; address is on the back of the form.
  • Application is received and reviewed to make sure the vessel described meets qualifications for HIN assignment.
  • Hull Identification Number is issued by NYS Parks and Recreation Marine Service Bureau.
  • Application is mailed to State or County Marine Patrol near the location of the vessel.
  • Marine Patrol then contacts the applicant to witness the Hull Identification Number being applied to the vessel described in the original application.
  • Applicant then takes the top half of the application to the DMV as proof of their HIN assignment.

Regattas

New York State Parks defines a regatta as an organized water event of limited duration which is conducted according to a prearranged schedule over a predetermined course and in which general public interest is manifested. They come in many different shapes and sizes from a swim race to an antique boat parade.

Regatta permits are issued by the following organizations:

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Adirondacks and Catskill Parks
United States Coast Guard Federal waters except NYS Barge Canal
For example Great Lakes, Lake Champlain, Hudson River (South of Lock 1 in Troy), Long Island Sound, and St. Lawrence
New York State Parks All other waterways
Includes NYS Barge Canal

Races involving exclusively crew shells may as an alternative to a regatta permit file a Notification of Racing Shell Regatta with NYS Parks. This notification does not provide the privileges afforded under a regatta permit including but not limited to the placement of race courses ahead of the event.

Recommended Practices for Rowing Clubs (pdf) - developed in association with the USRowing Association, this simple guide offers some tips for safe and enjoyable crewing or sculling experience.

If you are organizing a race or regatta, start your paperwork early so that you will receive your permit in time for the event

Floating Objects

When you are on the water you will come upon floating objects or buoys that are placed in the water for a reason. There are two types of objects that you will see and they have two different functions.

Aids to Navigation

The objects most people are familiar with are aids to navigation. Aids to Navigation provide boaters with information similar to that in which drivers obtain from street signs and traffic markers. These include buoys, beacons or other fixed objects in the water which are used to direct navigation through safe channels or to mark obstructions to navigation. Aids to navigation are generally installed by a government agency.

Aids to Navigation are placed by four agencies in New York:

  • U.S. Coast Guard - all tidal and ocean waterways, including the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain
  • Dept. of Environmental ConservationLeaving New York State Parks - Adirondack and Catskill Park Regions
  • NYS Canal Corporation - Barge Canal System
  • State Parks - all other waterways
There is an obstruction in the water that needs to be marked, who do I contact?

NYS Parks – Request for Navigational Aids to Placement (pdf)
NYS Canal Corp – Canal's Report of Obstruction (pdf)Leaving New York State Parks

Floating Objects

A floating object is an object floating on the surface of the water that isn’t an aid to navigation.
There could be anything from a mooring buoy to an environmental quality monitoring buoy. A floating object permit issued by NYS Parks is required on all waters in NYS except the tide waters of Nassau and Suffolk County.

Public Vessels

You have taken a boating course and have enjoyed boating for several years. You start to think about expanding your horizons, creating a small business and using your boat and your experience to take people out on the water.

Where do you start looking for information on how to go about this legally?

You need to know a few simple things

You may be considered a public vessel operator:

  • If you own a motor boat and you are charging a fee you need a Public Vessel Operator license. This fee can be indirect or direct compensation.
  • If you are operating on any New York State bodies of water except for the Hudson and Mohawk River, NYS Barge Canal, Lake Erie and Ontario, Lake Champlain and Greenwood Lake, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and Seneca Lake, New York Harbor, Long Island Sound and the Great South Bay, If you are operating on any of these waters you will need to contact the USCG about operator licensing and possible vessel inspection.

If you are operating a public vessel you must be at least 18 years of age, have passed the Public Vessel Operator License exam and have your vessel inspected by a marine inspector from NYS Parks, Marine Services Bureau.

I have a USCG license; do I need to take the exam? If you have a current USCG License you will not have to take the Public Vessel Operator's exam.

I am a New York State licensed guide, do I need to take your exam and have my boat inspected?

Many individuals who register with the Department of Environmental Conservation as a fishing guide, on the waters noted above, should be aware that they must meet the requirements of the NYS Navigation Law as well. If you operate a guide service that uses a mechanically propelled boat for fishing, hunting or to drop off clients at trail heads or wilderness camps on the waters noted above, you are considered a public vessel.

For more information check out our Technical Guidance

Contact the National Maritime CenterLeaving New York State Parks for mariner credentials and licenses.

For vessel inspections west of Little Falls NY contact USCG Station BuffaloLeaving New York State Parks, and for all other areas contact USCG Station New YorkLeaving New York State Parks