Historical and Revision Notes

Chapter 41 applies to vessels that are not subject to inspection and certification under chapter 33.

The Federal authority to regulate uninspected vessels originated with the Motorboat Act of 1910 (Public Law 61–201, 36 Stat. 462) when Congress established standards with respect to navigation lights, machinery requirements, life preservers, and for the licensing of operators on small vessels carrying passengers. This was an extension of Federal regulatory authority over certain non-steam-propelled vessels, that is, those recreational vessels and commercial vessels that are propelled by machinery other than steam.

Thirty years later, the 1910 Act was amended by the Motorboat Act of 1940 (Public Law 76–484, 54 Stat. 163), which added to the equipment that was required and provided for other regulatory controls. In this manner the Federal Government continued to exercise some degree of maritime safety supervision over the commercial and recreational vessel sector that was “uninspected”. This was important because steam towing vessels were converting to diesel propulsion and were therefore no longer subject to the detailed periodic and extensive hull, machinery, and equipment inspections of a Federal agency. In addition, the number of recreational vessels primarily propelled by gasoline were increasing and were also suffering casualties from explosions and fires.


1990—Pub. L. 101–595, title VI, § 603(3)(B), Nov. 16, 1990, 104 Stat. 2993, struck out item 4104 “Regulations”.

1984—Pub. L. 98–364, title IV, § 402(7)(B), July 17, 1984, 98 Stat. 446, inserted “GENERALLY” in chapter heading.