New Jersey Boating Safety Requirements



Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs aka Life Jackets)

When boating in New Jersey, boat owners are required to have at least one U.S. Coast Guard approved Type IV Personal Flotation Device (PFD), either a ring buoy or seat cushion, aboard recreational boats 16 feet and longer.

In addition, New Jersey boaters are required to carry at least one wearable Type I, II, III or V PFD for each person on board, regardless of the length of the watercraft. The PFDs must be readily accessible.




Under New Jersey law, the following PFD regulation also apply:

  • The state of New Jersey requires all persons being towed behind a vessel to wear a PFD at all times.
  • All personal watercraft occupants must wear a PFD. 
  • Inflatable PFDs are not approved for children nor are they approved for use during high impact sports such as water skiing or operating a PWC.

PFD Requirements for Children

All boaters or passengers 12 years of age and younger must wear a PFD while the vessel is underway. This regulation however, does not apply in the following instances:

  • If the child is on a vessel that is owned by the U.S. Government, the state of New Jersey or one of their agencies, a county or municipal government, or on any type of search and rescue vessel.
  • If the child is on any vessel that is longer than 65 feet being used for commercial reasons which requires a U.S. Coast Guard Operator's or Master's License.
  • If the child is on a ferry; or
  • If the child is inside a fully enclosed cabin that is a permanent non-removable part of the vessel that is designed to carry passengers.

Boating Age Requirements

No one under the age of 13 may operate any type of motor powered vessel on New Jersey's state waters. All persons 13 years of age or older, but under the age of 16, are required to complete an approved Boating Safety Course in order to operate a powered vessel. However, persons under the age of 16 may only operate vessels which are propelled exclusively with electric motors or vessels that are 12 feet in length or more which are fitted with a motor that is less than 10hp.




For all operators 16
years of age or older:

All persons 16 years of age or older may operate any power vessel including personal watercraft on New Jersey waters if they have successfully completed a state approved New Jersey Boating Safety Course and have a New Jersey Boating Safety Certificate in their possession available for inspection by an enforcement officer.

Alcohol & Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

Operating under the influence of alcohol, drugs or narcotics is a serious offense in New Jersey. A boater with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more shall be presumed to be under the influence of alcohol.

If a boater is found to have a blood alcohol content of less than .10%, boat operating privileges will be revoked for a period of 12 months from the date of conviction and a fine ranging from $250 to $400 will be issued. In addition, the boater will have their driver's license suspended for a period of 3 months by the Director of the Motor Vehicles Commission.




If a boater is found to have a blood alcohol content greater than .10%, or if found to be operating under the influence of any narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug, boat operating privileges will be revoked for a period of 12 months from the date of conviction and a fine ranging from $300 to $500 will be issued. In addition, the boater will have their driver's license suspended for a period of 7 months to a year by the Director of the Motor Vehicles Commission.

If convicted of a second offense, a boater’s operating privileges will be revoked for a period of 24 months from the date of conviction and a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000 will be issued. The boater will also have their driver's license suspended for a period of 24 months by the Director of the Motor Vehicles Commission. In addition, a second conviction will include mandatory jail time, with a minimum term of 48 hours but not more than 90 days, as well as 30 days of community service.

If convicted of a third offense or any subsequent convictions, boat operating privileges will be revoked for a period of 10 years from the date of conviction and a fine of $1,000 will be issued. The boater’s driver's license will be suspended for a period of 10 years by the Director of the Motor Vehicles Commission. In addition, a third conviction will include mandatory jail time, with a term of no less than 180 days, however the court may choose to lower this by a day for each day of community service that is performed up to a maximum of 90 days.

All boaters found guilty of operating under the influence will be required to successfully complete a state-approved Boating Safety Course.

New Jersey Boat Registration

The New Jersey State Police (NJSP) regulate the state boating laws in New Jersey.

To use New Jersey waterways, all boats more than 12 feet in length must be titled at a Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) Agency. All titled boats must be registered. In addition, all power vessels, regardless of length, must be registered. Any of the documents accepted for titling are also acceptable for registration. If the boat is not titled, you will have to show proof of ownership.

Every vessel in New Jersey waters shall be registered and numbered except:


  • A ship's lifeboat
  • A non-powered canoe
  • A non-powered kayak
  • A non-powered inflatable boat
  • A non-powered surfboard
  • A non-powered rowing scull
  • A non-powered racing shell
  • Tender or dinghy used solely for direct transportation between a vessel and shore;
  • Non-powered boats 12 feet or less in length.

Additionally, all titled boats must be registered. Any of the documents accepted for titling are also acceptable for registration. If the boat not titled, you will have to show proof of ownership.

Certificate of Number

Boat owners must have at least a temporary Certificate of Number (registration) before they can operate in state waters. If the vessel is greater than 12 feet in length, the boat owner must first obtain the boat title before the Certificate of Number.

Once the Certificate of Number is issued, it must be kept on board when the vessel is being operated. The Motor Vehicle Commission must be notified within 7 days if the boat owner changes residences.




The Certificate of Number, validation decals and title are obtained by submitting the proper application and fee to an authorized boat registration agent or to the Motor Vehicle Commission.

Motor Vehicle Commission
P.O. Box 160
Trenton, NJ 08666-0017
Tel: 609-292-6500 or Toll Free in NJ: 888-486-3339

Aquatic Nuisance Species

Non-native aquatic species, plants, fish and animals are invading New Jersey's waters. Hydrilla, Egeria Densa, water hyacinth and zebra mussels are nuisance species that can be accidentally transported by recreational boaters when caught in propellers, intakes or attached to hulls. These pests can increase dramatically under the right conditions, displacing native species, clogging waterways, and impacting navigation and recreation. Once introduced, they are nearly impossible to eliminate.




To help prevent the introduction and spread of non-native species from one body
of water to another, you should:

  • Inspect your boat and remove aquatic plants or animals before you leave any body of water; 
  • Flush raw-water cooling systems and clean sea strainers before moving your boat from one body of water to another; 
  • Empty bait buckets on land and remove any plant fragments from bait wells, fishing gear, trailers, dive gear or props; Dispose of the plant fragments on land, in a garbage receptacle; 
  • Drain water from your motor, live wells and bilge, and
  • Report any new infestation of non-native aquatic species to the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service.

To stop the spread of aquatic species, it is best to clean your boat before you leave the body of water.

Personal Watercraft Laws & Regulations

Personal watercraft are very powerful for their small size and demand the same respect as any size boat. That means PWC operators must follow the same rules and regulations as powerboat operators, including registering the watercraft with the state and carrying a B-1 fire extinguisher on board.

There are also some additional requirements for operating a PWC in New Jersey.

A person shall not operate a personal watercraft:

  • On the waters of the State between sunset and sunrise, or during any time of restricted visibility as determined by an agent or officer of the Marine Law Enforcement Bureau, Division of State Police; 
  • Within the confines of the Point Pleasant Canal in the County of Ocean, or the Cape May Canal in the County of Cape May; 
  • Above the minimum headway speed within 100 feet of:
    • Buoys or signs that mark the boundaries of a swimming area;
    • The shoreline o Any person in the water;
    • Residential dwelling units; or
  • In such a manner as to make the vessel completely leave the water or otherwise become airborne within 100 feet of another vessel.

The operator of a personal watercraft designed to accommodate three or more persons is permitted to tow a water skier provided that the watercraft has the capacity to allow one of the persons to face the stern of the watercraft for the purpose of tending to a ski rider, and that the person tending to the ski rider is present during the towing of the ski rider.

Any person operating a personal watercraft and any passenger on a personal watercraft must at all times, when the personal watercraft is in operation, wear a U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type I, II, III or V Hybrid Personal Flotation Device. The operator of any vessel equipped with a lanyard cut-off switch must wear the safety switch lanyard at all times when the vessel is in operation.




Hours of Operation

Personal watercraft may only be operated between the hours of sunrise and sunset. It is prohibited outside of these hours as well as during periods of reduced visibility.

Age Requirements

To operate a personal watercraft in New Jersey, persons must be at least 16 years of age or older and must have a Boating Safety Certificate in their possession, obtained through the successful completion of a state approved Boating Safety Course.