TITLE 23

Navigation and Waters

CHAPTER 21. MOTORBOATS

Subchapter II. Registration, Equipment and Operation


It is hereby declared to be the policy of the General Assembly and the purpose of this subchapter to improve boating safety and to foster greater development, use and enjoyment of all the waters of the State by encouraging and assisting participation by the State, the boating industry and the boating public in the development of boating safety programs which are more comprehensive, and by creating flexible regulatory authority concerning the use of boats and equipment. It is further declared to be the policy of the General Assembly to encourage greater and continuing uniformity of boating laws and regulations between the State, its subdivisions and the federal government; a higher degree of reciprocity and comity among the several jurisdictions; and closer cooperation and assistance between the State and the federal government in developing, administering and enforcing federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to boating safety.

23 Del. C. 1953, § 2111; 52 Del. Laws, c. 154, § 1; 59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1.;

Unless as otherwise provided for in this section or Department regulations, the definitions used in this chapter shall be the same as those used in the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 [46 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq.]. Other definitions are:

(1) "Department" means the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, unless stated otherwise in this chapter.

(2) "Fish and Wildlife Agent" means a law-enforcement officer employed by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control pursuant to this title and § 8003(13) of Title 29.

(3) "Physical injury" means impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.

(4) "Secretary" means the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, unless otherwise stated in this chapter.

(5) "Serious physical injury" means physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious and prolonged disfigurement, prolonged impairment of health or prolonged loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

(6) "State" means the State of Delaware.

(7) "Vessel" shall mean every description of watercraft, other than a seaplane, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water or ice. Jet skis, surf jets, ski craft and other personal watercraft are vessels for purposes of this chapter.

(8) "Waters of the State" means any waters within the territorial limits of this State, the marginal sea adjacent to this State and the high seas when navigated as a part of a journey or ride to or from the shore of this State.

23 Del. C. 1953, § 2112; 52 Del. Laws, c. 154, § 2; 52 Del. Laws, c. 231, § 2; 59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1; 68 Del. Laws, c. 185, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 105, § 18; 71 Del. Laws, c. 427, § 8.;

(a) All vessels subject to this subchapter shall be divided into classes as follows and subject to the appropriate registration fees:

Class A—less than 16 feet $10 per year

Class 1—16 feet or over and less than 26 feet in length  20 per year

Class 2—26 feet or over and less than 40 feet in length  30 per year

Class 3—40 feet or over and less than 65 feet in length  50 per year

Class 4—65 feet or over and not required to be documented  60 per year

(b) The registration number may be retained by the owner in the event of a transfer by paying a fee of $3.45 per transfer. In the event a duplicate registration card is required, there shall be a fee of $2.30.

(c) Nonresident vessels using the waters of this State for principal use over 60 days and nonresidents owning a boat docked and/or stowed in waters of this State for over 60 days shall be required to register with the Department. Registration of a motorboat shall not be valid for more than 3 years.

(d) Dealers shall be issued 1 registration number for a fee of $11.50 and for each additional number the dealer shall pay a fee of $5.75, to be used for demonstration purposes only.

(e) Any vessel utilizing tidal water boat access facilities provided by the Department shall be registered as required in this section in the State (which license includes funds for maintenance of these facilities under § 2118(b) of this title) or shall purchase a "boat ramp certificate." Boats belonging to the United States government (except recreational type public vessels), State and any rescue vessel operated for the public benefit are exempt from this requirement. The "boat ramp certificate" shall cost $35, shall be affixed in a satisfactory location to the boat for which intended and shall be nontransferable. Income accrued from the sale of boat ramp certificates is appropriated to the Department (Division of Fish and Wildlife) and shall be used in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act [16 U.S.C. § 777 et seq.].

(f) Beginning July 1, 2000 and annually thereafter, the funds derived by the State from Boat Registration Fees shall be deposited as Appropriated Special Funds by the Department with the State Treasurer.

59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1; 60 Del. Laws, c. 224, § 1; 61 Del. Laws, c. 303, § 1; 63 Del. Laws, c. 27, § 1; 65 Del. Laws, c. 334, § 1; 67 Del. Laws, c. 221, § 1; 67 Del. Laws, c. 260, § 1; 68 Del. Laws, c. 9, §§ 10, 11; 68 Del. Laws, c. 86, §§ 11-13; 71 Del. Laws, c. 443, § 6; 72 Del. Laws, c. 395, § 272.;

(a) The Department may authorize as many qualified persons as licensing agents as it deems necessary to effectuate the efficient distribution of boat registrations and boat ramp certificates. All new licensing agents shall be engaged in both retail sales and repairs of boats as a prerequisite for the issuance of boat registrations.

(b) Licensing agents may add a service charge to the required fee for a boat registration or boat ramp certificate, provided the service charge does not exceed $1.50 for a boat registration and $0.75 for a boat ramp certificate. Said service charge, if imposed, shall be posted by the licensing agent and shall be clearly visible to prospective purchasers.

(c) The Secretary may adopt, amend, modify or repeal rules and regulations to effectuate the policy and purpose of this section.

71 Del. Laws, c. 443, § 7.;

(a) The Department shall issue rules and regulations for all vessels using state waters in accordance with the safety procedures outlined by the United States Coast Guard and present federal law. Every vessel shall be provided with the equipment prescribed by current United States Coast Guard regulations or Department regulations, and any amendments or changes thereto. No person shall operate or give permission for the operation of a vessel which is not in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Coast Guard or the Department, and any vessel deemed unseaworthy by the Department or its agent shall not be operated on the waters of the State.

(b) The Department may issue regulations for the use, manufacture and sale of vessels to which this subchapter applies, with respect to:

(1) The registration, numbering and marking of undocumented vessels;

(2) Requirements for associated equipment;

(3) Boat and associated equipment standards;

(4) Operating requirements;

(5) Boating safety education; and

(6) Safety patrol and enforcement activity.

(c) The Department shall prescribe such rules and regulations as may be necessary concerning the reporting and investigation of casualties and accidents, including those vessels otherwise exempted.

23 Del. C. 1953, §§ 2113, 2114; 52 Del. Laws, c. 154, § 4; 54 Del. Laws, c. 135; 57 Del. Laws, c. 739, §§ 107, 108; 59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1.;

(a) This chapter shall apply to vessels and associated equipment used, to be used, or carried in vessels used on waters subject to the jurisdiction of this State.

(b) This chapter, except those sections where the content expressly indicates otherwise, does not apply to:

(1) Foreign vessels temporarily using waters subject to state jurisdiction;

(2) Military or public vessels of the United States, except recreational-type public vessels;

(3) A vessel whose owner is a state or subdivision thereof, other than this State, which is used principally for governmental purposes, and which is clearly identifiable as such;

(4) A ship's lifeboats;

(5) Vessels for sale by authorized dealers, or for charter, livery or rent by authorized persons or agencies shall be subject to all requirements referred to in this subchapter.

(c) No vessel propelled safely by wind power or physical exertion shall be subject to the licensing and registration fee of this subchapter, but shall be subject to all safety requirements referred to in § 2114 of this title.

59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1.;

(a) No person shall use or give permission for the use of any vessel to which this subchapter applies, unless the vessel is in compliance with the requirements of this subchapter and the applicable standards and regulations promulgated under the authority of this subchapter.

(b) Notwithstanding § 2115(b) of this title, whoever uses a vessel or associated equipment in a careless or imprudent manner, or without due regard for the conditions then existing (i.e., visibility, weather, etc.), shall be guilty of careless operation.

(c) Notwithstanding § 2115(b) of this title, whoever uses a vessel and fails to give full time and attention to the operation of the vessel, or whoever fails to maintain a proper look-out while operating the vessel, shall be guilty of inattentive operation.

(d) Notwithstanding § 2115(b) of this title, whoever uses a vessel or associated equipment in wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property shall be guilty of reckless operation.

(e) Notwithstanding § 2115(b) of this title, a person is guilty of assault by vessel in the second degree when:

(1) While in the course of operating a vessel, the person's criminally negligent operation of said vessel causes serious physical injury to another person; or

(2) While in the course of operating a vessel and under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as defined by § 2301 of this title, the person's negligent operation of said vessel causes physical injury to another person.

Assault by vessel in the second degree is a class B misdemeanor.

(f) Notwithstanding § 2115(b) of this title, a person is guilty of assault by vessel in the first degree when while in the course of operating a vessel and under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as defined by § 2301 of this title, the person's negligent operation of said vessel causes serious physical injury to another person.

Assault by vessel in the first degree is a class F felony.

59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1; 67 Del. Laws, c. 216, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 427, §§ 2, 9.;

(a) Any person may request vessel numbering and registration information from the Department, if such is retrievable from the vessel numbering system records of the State. When the Department is satisfied that the request is reasonable and related to a boating safety purpose, the information shall be furnished upon payment by such person of the cost of retrieval and furnishing of the information requested.

(b) Boating accident reports, filed by those parties directly involved, and required under the authority of § 2114(c) of this title, are not public records available for public inspection or release. The fact that such reports have been made shall be admissible in evidence solely to show compliance with this section or regulations promulgated under the authority of § 2114(c) of this title. No such report nor any part thereof nor any statement contained therein shall be admissible as evidence for any purpose in any civil or criminal trial.

(c) Boating accident reports and any information compiled therefrom may be released to state and federal law-enforcement agencies and officials of the United States Coast Guard for analytical and statistical purposes at no cost.

(d) Any federal agency or agency of Delaware state government may request information from the Department concerning the registration of a vessel. After the Department receives such a request and the Department is satisfied that such a request is reasonable and related to a boating safety, law-enforcement and/or fishery management purpose, the Department may release information concerning the registration of a vessel. In each case where said information is released, the Department may seek reimbursement from the agency requesting the information for all costs incurred by the Department in connection with the gathering and transmitting of the information to the requesting agency.

59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1; 63 Del. Laws, c. 313, § 1.;

(a) The Department shall maintain and improve public facilities for launching of vessels in all counties of the State.

(b) The Department shall assign a Boating Administrator who shall be qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of office. The Boating Administrator shall train and maintain a staff of Fish and Wildlife Agents who are capable of insuring compliance with state law and Department regulations of all vessels using, moored or anchored on state waters. The Boating Administrator shall train and maintain a clerical staff to operate the boating safety office and all boat registration offices. For the purpose of carrying out this subchapter, Fish and Wildlife Agents shall have all the powers of investigation, detention and arrest conferred by law on peace officers and constables. Such officers shall have the right to arrest with a warrant for violations or without a warrant for violations of such regulations committed in their presence.

(c) If a Fish and Wildlife Agent observes a boat being used without sufficient life-saving or fire-fighting devices or in overloaded or other unsafe condition as defined by state or federal law or Department regulations, and in Agent's judgment such use creates an especially hazardous condition, the agent may direct the operator to take whatever immediate and reasonable steps would be necessary for the safety of those aboard the vessel, including directing the operator to return to mooring and to remain there until the situation creating the hazard is corrected or ended.

(d) Any person designated by the Secretary and empowered to enforce state laws and Department regulations and of any rule or regulation adopted pursuant thereto shall have the authority to stop and board any vessel subject to state laws or Department regulations for the purpose of inspection or determining compliance with the state laws or Department regulations. Vessels of law-enforcement personnel shall be marked to identify them as designated enforcement vessels.

(e) Enforcement personnel, whether in uniform or civilian clothes, shall give proper identification issued by the Secretary when boarding a vessel on waters of this State.

(f) Every vessel, if underway on the "waters of this State"' and upon being hailed by a designated law-enforcement officer, shall stop immediately and lay to, or shall maneuver in such a way as to permit such officer to come ahead.

(g) The State Police shall have the same authority as Fish and Wildlife Agents in enforcement of this subchapter.

59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 105, §§ 19, 20, 21; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; 78 Del. Laws, c. 266, § 19.;

(a) For purposes of implementing this subchapter, there shall be appropriated annually the funds necessary to establish and maintain reasonable support in terms of equipment and personnel to carry out the purposes of this subchapter.

Such support shall be based on the utilization of a Boating Administrator, Fish and Wildlife Agents and the resources necessary to allow for 1 Fish and Wildlife Agent plus equipment and operating expenses for each 2,000 boats registered as of July 1 of the preceding year. Each Fish and Wildlife Agent shall receive an appropriate salary as set by the Department pursuant to the merit system.

(b) For purposes of implementing § 2118(a) of this title, there shall be appropriated not more than $2 annually for every boat registered as of July 1 of the preceding fiscal year.

59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 105, § 22.;

(a) The Department may authorize the holding of regattas, motorboat or other boat races, marine parades, tournaments or exhibitions on any waters of this State. It shall adopt and may, from time to time, amend regulations concerning the safety of motorboats and other vessels and persons thereon, either observers or participants. Whenever a regatta, motorboat race, or other boat race, marine parade, tournament or exhibition is proposed to be held, the person in charge thereof shall, at least 30 days prior thereto, file an application with the Department for permission to hold such regatta, motorboat race, or other boat race, marine parade, tournament or exhibition. The application shall set forth the date, time and location where it is proposed to hold such regatta, motorboat race or other boat race, marine parade, tournament or exhibition and it shall not be conducted without authorization of the Department in writing.

(b) This section shall not exempt any person from compliance with applicable federal law or regulation, but nothing contained in this subchapter shall be construed to require the securing of a state permit pursuant to this section if a permit therefor has been obtained from an authorized agency of the United States.

23 Del. C. 1953, § 2125; 52 Del. Laws, c. 154, § 15; 57 Del. Laws, c. 739, § 117; 59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1.;

(a) This subchapter and other applicable laws of this State shall govern the operation, equipment, numbering and all other matters relating thereto whenever any vessels shall be operated on the waters of this State, or when any activity regulated by this subchapter shall take place thereon; but nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to prevent the adoption of any ordinance or local law relating to operation and equipment of vessels, the provisions of which are identical to this subchapter, amendments thereto or regulations issued thereunder; provided, however, that such ordinances or local laws shall be operative only so long as and to the extent that they continue to be identical to this subchapter, amendments thereto or regulations issued thereunder.

(b) Any subdivision of this State may, at any time, but only after public notice, make formal application to the Department for special rules and regulations with reference to the operation of vessels on any waters within its territorial limits and shall set forth therein the reasons which make such special rules or regulations necessary or appropriate.

(c) The Department shall make special rules and regulations with reference to the operation of vessels on any waters within the territorial limits of any subdivision of this State.

23 Del. C. 1953, § 2126; 52 Del. Laws, c. 154, § 16; 57 Del. Laws, c. 793, § 118; 59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1.;

The United States Coast Guard "Rules of the Road," "International-Inland" and the "United States Coast Guard Regulations (pilot rules) for Inland Waters," established pursuant thereto, and any amendments or changes thereto, shall be the state law on all "waters of the State," unless modified by state law or Department regulations. Fish and Wildlife Agents and the State Police shall have the authority for enforcement of these rules on all waters of the State.

23 Del. C. 1953, § 2115; 52 Del. Laws, c. 154, § 5; 57 Del. Laws, c. 739, § 109; 59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 105, § 23.;

(a) The owner of a vessel livery shall cause to be kept a record of the name and address of the person or persons hiring any vessel which is designed or permitted by the owner to be operated as a motorboat or vessel, the identification number thereof and the departure date and time and the expected time of return. The record shall be preserved for at least 1 year. When boats are 3 hours overdue or at the close of the day, the owner shall notify the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

(b) Neither the owner of a vessel livery, nor an agent or employee, shall permit any motorboat or any vessel designed or permitted by the owner to be operated as a motorboat or vessel to depart from the owner's premises unless it shall have been provided, either by owner or renter, with the equipment required pursuant to this subchapter and any laws or regulations made pursuant thereto.

(c) Neither the owner of a vessel livery, nor an agent or employee, shall permit any motorboat or any vessel designed or permitted by the owner to be operated as a motorboat or vessel to depart from the owner's premises if, in the owner's opinion:

(1) The lessee is physically incapable of safely operating the motorboat or vessel; or

(2) The weather is prohibitive for safe operation.

23 Del. C. 1953, § 2121; 52 Del. Laws, c. 154, § 11; 59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

A copy of the regulations adopted pursuant to this subchapter and any amendments thereto shall be filed in the office of the Secretary of State. This subchapter and the regulations of the Department shall be published by the Department in convenient form and distributed to or made available to all persons registering boats or vessels in Delaware or those operating boats or vessels in the waters of the State who request this information.

23 Del. C. 1953, § 2128; 52 Del. Laws, c. 154, § 18; 52 Del. Laws, c. 231, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 739, § 119; 59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1.;

(a) Whoever violates any of the provisions of this chapter, except §§ 2113(e), 2116(b), (c), (d), (e) and (f), or any regulation promulgated thereunder, shall for the first offense be guilty of a class D environmental violation. For each subsequent like offense occurring within 12 months of a prior conviction, the person will be guilty of a class C environmental violation.

(b) Whoever violates § 2113(e) of this title shall be guilty of a class D environmental violation.

(c) Whoever violates § 2116(b) or (c) of this title shall be guilty of a class D environmental violation.

(d) Whoever violates § 2116(d) of this title shall be guilty of a class C environmental violation. For each subsequent like offense occurring within 3 years of a prior conviction, the person shall be guilty of a class B environmental misdemeanor. No person sentenced under this subsection as a repeat offender shall receive a suspended sentence.

(e) The Justice of the Peace Courts shall have jurisdiction over any violation of this chapter, with the exception of § 2116(f) of this title.

(f) Violations of Chapters 21, 22 and 23 of this title or department orders, rules or regulations promulgated to implement provisions of these chapters are designated as environmental misdemeanors and violations punishable pursuant to the sentencing categories set forth in § 1304 of Title 7.

23 Del. C. 1953, § 2130; 52 Del. Laws, c. 154, § 20; 53 Del. Laws, c. 27, § 8; 58 Del. Laws, c. 193; 58 Del. Laws, c. 239, § 1; 59 Del. Laws, c. 576, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 427, § 3; 79 Del. Laws, c. 421, § 14.;

(a) Any Fish and Wildlife Agent or police officer of this State authorized to make arrests for violations of this title and regulations promulgated thereunder is further authorized to arrest a person without a warrant at the scene of a boating accident upon reasonable and probable cause to believe, based upon personal investigation which may include information obtained from eye witnesses, that a violation has been committed by any person then and there present.

(b) An arrest without a warrant is further authorized under this subsection:

(1) Whenever a subject voluntarily leaves the scene of the accident; and

(2) Whenever a suspect is removed from the scene of the accident for the purpose of receiving medical attention in which case the medical facility shall be considered as an extension of the scene of the accident.

(c) When a suspect has been initially detained by an active duty member of the United States Coast Guard, an arrest of that suspect without a warrant is authorized under this section, when based upon reasonable and probable cause, which shall include information obtained from the said active duty member of the United States Coast Guard, that the suspect had been operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in violation of this title.

68 Del. Laws, c. 67, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;