Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Public Vessels

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Public Vessels

"Public Vessels" are for-hire passenger vessels in NY state. The operators of Public Vessels must be licensed, and the vessels must be inspected by the Marine Services Bureau of NYS Parks. These vessels are subject to operate in accordance with New York State Navigation Law Article 4 Part 2 Public Vessels Sections (§§) 50 - 69.

The normal inspection season for Public Vessels is May 1 - July 4th. Any operator who would like to have a PV inspected during this time period must submit an "Application for Certification of a Public Vessel" a minimum of 2 weeks prior to the desired inspection date to ensure a time slot in the schedule.

The Marine Inspectors are based in Albany and travel to the vessels to conduct inspections and operator exams and so trips are scheduled by region. If you cannot have your vessel ready during the assigned date and time, you may have to wait until after July 4th to have your vessel inspected, or for an inspector to come back to your region to conduct a PV operator exam.

Public Vessel Inspection dates are mailed out in late March along with a reminder to renew your license. Please note the date, time, and location of your inspection and email or call to confirm or request a change.

Public Vessel FAQs

What is a Public Vessel? The New York State Navigation Law Article 1 Sec. 2 6(a) defines a Public Vessel as:
"Public Vessel" shall mean and include every vessel which is propelled in whole or in part by mechanical power and is used or operated for commercial purposes on the navigable waters of the state; that is either carrying passengers, carrying freight, towing, or for any other use; for which a compensation is received, either directly or where provided as an accommodation, advantage, facility or privilege at any place of public accommodation, resort or amusement.

In short, if you are receiving any kind of compensation, operating any type/size vessel with any sized mechanical propulsion (gas, solar, or electric), on sole-state waters - you are a Public Vessel.

Is the waterway I operate on subject to USCG or NYS PV licenses/inspections? You are a PV 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.

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, 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 sole-state waters, you are considered a public vessel.

I'm not charging a fixed rate or a ticket, just accepting donations and gas money. Am I still a Public Vessel? Yes. Unless the boat ride is completely free, any type of compensation received would classify you as a Public Vessel.

I run a hotel/B&B where we provide a captained sunset cruise/water taxi/etc. Is my vessel a PV, even if I don't charge for boat rides? Yes. Although the guests may not be paying directly for a boat ride, if they are paying for a room and this is an amenity offered, it is a PV. This would be an example of indirect compensation.

We have waterski boats at summer camp. Would these all have to be PVs? Yes. Similar to a hotel, although campers are not paying for boat rides, they are paying to attend camp. This is another example of indirect compensation.

What about our camp sailboats? As long as they do not have engines onboard, they are not PVs.

How often do I need to have my PVs inspected? Every year. We typically complete all inspections between May 1 - July 4. We inspect vessels and offer operator written tests and practical tests during our annual trip to your location. Our inspectors break up the summer trips by region and typically only come to your area once, so please be sure to contact us to find out what week our inspectors will be there so you can be sure to get your application in 2 weeks prior and get on the schedule. If you aren't ready when they are there, you will likely have to wait until sometime in mid-July.

Do I need to have my PV inspected even if the US Coast Guard also inspects it? Yes.

What is required to take the Joint Pilot and Engineer exam? You must be at least 18 years old and have proof of having taken a NYS approved Safe Boating Course.

Do I need to operate the boat for you during my test? Not for a JPE license. If you are testing to be a Captain or Engineer on a larger dinner-boat type vessel, there will be a practical exam onboard your vessel. If you go to a new Master-level vessel, you will need to do a new practical onboard that vessel.

How often do I need to renew my license? Every year. The license will expire on your original date of issue every year. The annual renewal is just a $10 payment. Every 5th issue (issue 5, 10, 15 etc) you will receive an open-book, take-home, exam in the mail with your renewal reminder. This is meant to serve as both a refresher as well as to ensure you are familiar with any new NYS boating regulations or PV requirements.

Can I take the test and/or renew my license online? No. All license exams must be completed in person, proctored by a Marine Inspector. All renewal payments must be mailed to our office. Please contact us for details

Is this the same as a United States Coast Guard Captain's license/ USCG vessel inspection? No. The USCG only has jurisdiction over vessels operating on Federal waters. Essentially, if your vessel operates on any body of water that flows to the ocean, you will require USCG inspection and license. (Hudson, Mohawk, Great Lakes, Canal system, Seneca, etc) Public Vessel inspections and licenses are the equivalent of this, but on NY sole state waters. All license renewals, inspections, and reporting of accidents/incidents on PVs go through NYS Parks Marine Services Bureau. You will not have to have any correspondence with the USCG. Please contact us to confirm if you are a USCG for-hire vessel or a NYS Public Vessel based on your body of water, if you are unsure. Contact the National Maritime CenterLeaving New York State Parks for mariner credentials and licenses.

What is a Certificate of Inspection (COI)? A Certificate of Inspection is the document that allows you to legally operate with passengers. It must be kept onboard the vessel and it documents all required equipment, crew, and passenger limits. The COI is valid for 54 weeks after your vessel is inspected. It is only issued if you do not have an outstanding invoice. If you have not paid for inspection, the COI is not issued, and you will be operating in violation of the NYS Navigation Law.

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