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New US Fire Extinguisher Regulations Coming in April

By: BoatBlurb Staff

The United States Coast Guard has issued new regulations for fire extinguishers on boats. The news rules will go into effect April 20th, 2022. They do not include changes to the quantity of fire extinguishers already required on vessels relative to their size, but they do require the adoption of a new rating system going forward.

Any approved fire extinguisher installed before August 22, 2016 can remain on a recreational vessel as long as it is serviceable. Disposable fire extinguishers cannot be older than 12 years from the date stamp on the bottle. Expired disposable extinguishers must be removed from service and taken off the boat by December 31 of their 12th year.

As with the current regulations, all extinguishers onboard must be in serviceable working condition. They must have pressure gauge or indication showing the extinguisher is in the operable range, and must have lock pins firmly in place. Discharge nozzles must be clean and free of obstructions, and there should be no signs of damage or corrosion.

The Changes

The US Coast Guard will now use the Underwriters Laboratory performance-based classification system for portable fire extinguishers. Most extinguishers already in circulation have Coast Guard and UL rating classifications.

The new classification system requires portable and semi-portable extinguishers to be marked with a combined number and letter designation. The letter designates what class of fire the extinguisher is suitable for. The number indicates the extinguishing potential.

The Rating System

In addition to being onboard and accessible, all semi-portable and portable fire extinguishers must be “Marine Type–USCG Approved” with the correct classification, meaning they must have Coast Guard classification system marking and approval numbers on the label. The details:

  • Extinguishers UL Classified 5-B:C/10-B:C (or greater) meet carriage requirements for all recreational vessels regardless of vessel age.

  • Extinguishers rated as Marine Type USCG Type B:C, size I or size II are only acceptable on vessels built in model year 2017 or earlier.

  • Ratings that include higher numbers or more letters are acceptable.

  • One 20-B extinguisher may be carried to replace two required 5-B extinguishers.

  • The regulations include special rules for vessels built prior to 1952.

In Canada, existing regulations from Transport Canada for boats under 6 metres (19'8") state that a Class 5BC extinguisher must be present on any craft with an inboard motor, fixed fuel tank, and/or any fuel-burning cooking, heating, or refrigeration units. For larger vessels, Canada's Safe Boating Guide has a complete breakdown of extinguisher requirements relative to boat size/function. There is no word if further changes are incoming to Canadian regulations.

For more information about the US regulations, check out the U.S. Coast Guard’s FAQ. You can also read the US guidance for vessel examiners performing vessel safety checks.

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