Skip to main content

U.S.C.G. New Law Requiring Use of Engine Cut -off Switches

On April 1, 2021 a new federal law goes into effect that requires the operator of a boat with an installed Engine Cut-Off Switch (ECOS) to use the ECOS link. The link is usually a coiled bungee cord lanyard clipped onto the operator’s person, Personal Floatation Device (PFD) or clothing and the other end attached to the cut-off switch, but there are plenty of variations on the market, including electronic wireless devices.  The law applies on all “Navigable Waters of the US”.
When an operator is wearing a link while underway, the engine will cut-off if the operator is separated from the operating area, an occurrence that can happen if the operator is ejected from the vessel or falls within the vessel.  The shutdown of the engine is essential for safety reasons.  If the operator is ejected from the vessel, the shutdown may prevent the operator from impacting the vessel’s spinning propeller, and may aid the operator in safely returning to the drifting vessel.
The law applies to “Covered Recreational vessels” which means any motorized boat with 3 or more horsepower that is less than 26 feet in length and takes effect on April 1, 2021.
Operator Requirement: An individual operating a covered recreational vessel shall use an engine cut-off switch link while operating on plane or above displacement speed.
An earlier law, passed by congress in 2018, required manufactures to install an Emergency Engine Cut-Off Switch (ECOS). The law passed on December 4th 2018, and went into effect 1 year later. Even though it is now a law, most U.S. boat manufacturers have voluntarily installed an ECOS on their boats for decades.
The terms Engine Cut-Off Switch (ECOS) and Engine/Propulsion Cut-Off Devices are used interchangeably to denote a system that disables the propulsion engine when the operator is unexpectedly displaced from the vessel.

For more information on the new law that goes into effect on 1 April 2021, click here to visit the ECOS FAQ section

Why you should wear your Engine Cut-off Switch link?

A typical three-blade propeller running at 3,200 rpm can inflict 160 impacts in one second so it is critical that you are aware of what is going on around you.  Be aware:

  • People in the water may not be visible from the helm
  • Account for passengers before starting the engine
  • Inform passengers about propeller hazard areas
  • Be alert in congested areas and near swimming zones
  • Take extra precaution around towed watersports
  • Never permit riding on the bow, gunwale, transom, seatbacks, or other locations where an occupant could fall overboard
  • Children should be watched carefully at all times – it only takes a second to fall overboard
  • You would childproof your home so think about childproofing your boat
  • Establish rules for swim platform use, boarding ladders, and seating
  • If someone falls overboard, STOP the boat; once clear begin recovery procedures
  • Warning – Never put your boat in reverse to pick someone up out of the water, always circle around going forward while keeping the person in the water visible to the boat operator at all times.


Engine Cut-Off Switch – FAQ

A list of frequently asked questions about Engine Cut-Off Switches.


Propeller Guard Test Protocol

The United States Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety announced the release of the Propeller Guard Test Procedure report developed for the Coast Guard under the auspices of the American Boat and Yacht Council. This procedure is intended for use by developers of propeller guard devices and independent third party testing entities to test propeller guard products in a consistent, repeatable manner.

Propeller Safety

View the BEWARE Boat Propellers… A Hidden Danger.
Also available in Spanish


Author: The U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division
Date: April 1, 2021
Link: Click here to read the original article