Tools for reciprocity


Reciprocity is not a four-letter word. In fact, the word reciprocity is longer and more complicated. In the world of boating safety education, even though reciprocity may seem complicated, it doesn’t have to be. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) Education & Outreach Committee has been vigilant in reviewing reciprocity issues for recreational boaters for several years.


The good news is that most states have a boating safety education requirement. The bad news is that every state applies this requirement to different segments of the population. If you are a visiting boater, this can be confusing! How does a visiting boater know if they need to take a boating safety class and what class to take?

Fortunately for boaters, there is a six-letter acronym that helps clear up the complications of reciprocity when it comes to boating safety education, NASBLA. How does NASBLA help? NASBLA offers states and recreational boaters several tools to assist in making boating safer for all.

reference guide

One of the tools created by NASBLA is a Reference Guide to State Boating Laws. Periodically NASBLA collects information from member states about state boating safety laws and regulations, including boating under the influence, reckless operation, and equipment regulations. Included in the information collected from states is whether or not the state requires boating safety education for the boaters in their state. Available to all the states as well as the general public, the reference guide is a valuable tool.

Another tool is NASBLA’s collection of model acts. These acts have been created by member states to serve as best practices for boating laws and regulations. Currently, there are 23 model acts on the NASBLA website, ranging from the Uniform Certificate of Title Act for Vessels to the Model Act for Mandatory Boating Safety Education. These acts serve as valuable reference tools for states’ boating law administrators and help provide uniformity among state boating laws.

For state boating safety educators, the most valuable tool is the NASBLA boating safety course review process. In 1999, NASBLA adopted the National Boating Education Standards that identified the minimum body of knowledge recreational boaters need for legal and safe recreational boating. These standards serve as the basis for boating education courses across the country. Since 1999, NASBLA has managed the required content, delivery standards, review, and approval of boating safety courses to meet the National Boating Education Standards and other NASBLA requirements. All courses that go through the NASBLA review process are able to brand their course as a NASBLA-approved course. 

ansi logo

Recently, NASBLA spearheaded an ANSI-approval process for development of the National Education Standards. The ANSI methodology applies more rigor and more participation in the development of boating education standards. NASBLA has incorporated the recently ANSI-approved National Boating Education Standards into their review process. 

Why do state boating safety educators rely on this process? When a boating safety course certificate carries the NASBLA logo, boating safety professionals know that the boater has acquired the minimum knowledge required to safely operate a boat. Because of this, the majority of states will accept a boating safety course certificate from any state or course provider if it has a NASBLA logo on the certificate. This provides piece of mind for the recreational boater to travel to any state and feel confident that they are meeting the boating safety requirement of that state.

NASBLA is on the right course with regard to reciprocity. While realizing that states may not be uniform in their laws and regulations regarding safe boat operation, the tools offered by NASBLA help to mitigate the differences from state to state and provide piece of mind for boaters that no matter what state they may boat in, they can easily comply with the rules and regulations of that state.

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