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All boats which use gasoline for electrical generation, mechanical power or propulsion are required to be equipped with a ventilation system. A natural ventilation system is required for each compartment in a boat that:

  1. contains a permanently installed gasoline engine;
  2. has openings between it and a compartment that requires ventilation;
  3. contains a permanently installed fuel tank and an electrical component that is not ignition-protected;
  4. contains a fuel tank that vents into that compartment (including a portable tank); and
  5. contains a non-metallic fuel tank.
A natural ventilation system consists of:
  • A supply opening (duct/cowl) from the atmosphere (located on the exterior surface of the boat) or from a ventilated compartment or from a compartment that is open to the atmosphere;
  • and an exhaust opening into another ventilated compartment or an exhaust duct to the atmosphere.

Illustration  of air flow through natural ventilation system. As the boat moves forward, air moves aft over the deck and into an intake cowl. Air moves from intake cowl to a collector box

All blower motors installed in exhaust ducts must be in working condition of date of manufacture. Each exhaust opening or exhaust duct must originate in the lower one-third of the compartment. Each supply opening or supply duct and each exhaust opening or duct in a compartment must be above the normal accumulation of bilge water.

A powered ventilation system is required for each compartment in a boat that has a permanently installed gasoline engine with a cranking motor for remote starting.

A powered ventilation system consists of one or more exhaust blowers. Each intake duct for an exhaust blower must be in the lower one-third of the compartment and above the normal accumulation of bilge water.

For boats built prior to 1980, there was no requirement for a powered ventilation system; however, some boats were equipped with a blower.

The Coast Guard Ventilation Standard, a manufacturer requirement, applies to all boats built on or after August 1, 1980. Some builders began manufacturing boats in compliance with the Ventilation Standard as early as August 1978. If your boat was built on or after August 1, 1978 it might have been equipped with either (1) a natural ventilation system, or (2) both a natural ventilation system and a powered ventilation system. If your boat bears a label containing the words "This boat complies with U.S. Coast Guard safety standards," etc., you can assume that the design of your boat's ventilation system meets applicable regulations.

Manufacturers of boats built after 1980 with remote starters are required to display a label which contains the following information:


Gasoline vapors can explode. Before starting engine, operate blower at least 4 minutes and check engine compartment bilge for gasoline vapors.

All owners are responsible for keeping their boat's ventilation systems in operating condition. This means making sure openings are free of obstructions, ducts are not blocked or torn, blowers operate properly, and worn components are replaced with equivalent marine type equipment.

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