On occasion, State law enforcement agencies, manufacturers or other interested parties will ask the Coast Guard what laws and regulations apply to a particular device being used, or considered for use, on the water. The Coast Guard’s first step is to determine whether or not the particular device in question is a "vessel". The process begins with the definition of the word vessel found in 1 USC 3, which is: "The word "vessel" includes every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water." If the device in question fits the definition, further analysis is conducted considering the following factors:
(1) Whether the watercraft is "practically capable" of carrying persons or property beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing, or bathing area;
(2) Whether the useful operating range of the device is limited by the physical endurance of its operator;
(3) Whether the device presents a substantial hazard to navigation or safety not already present;
(4) Whether the normal objectives sought to be accomplished by the regulation of a device as a "vessel" are present;
(5) Whether the operator and/or cargo would no longer be safe in the water if the device became disabled.
This analysis is conducted and reviewed by subject matter experts, and then a final determination is made and provided to the requestor. Recent determinations are listed below and can be downloaded by clicking on the determination title.