Transport Canada proposes making engine cut-off switches mandatory in recreational boats

engine cut-off switch Photo by BORIS LUKIANOV/Shutterstock

Transport Canada is asking the public to weigh in on whether it should make the installation and use of an engine cut-off switch mandatory on personal watercraft. The proposed changes would require manufacturers to install engine cut-off switches in boats that are less than eight metres in length, have a 3-hp motor or more, and have an open helm station (rather than an enclosed cabin). Through the feedback process, the government agency will also be looking at making it mandatory for boat operators to link themselves to the engine cut-off switch when using their vessel.

An engine cut-off switch links the boat’s operator to the vessel via a c-shaped clip and bungee cable. The clip attaches to a button near the boat’s controls, usually close to the ignition switch. The other end of the cable attaches to the operator through a hook-clip or wristband. If the operator is dislodged from the boat and the clip detaches, the motor will shut off.

“This is a safety feature that protects operators from the spinning propeller. The switch also stops the vessel from moving through the water without an operator controlling it,” Transport Canada said in a statement.

Engine cut-off switches have been required in the U.S. for the last few years. In 2019, the U.S. government mandated manufacturers to install engine cut-off switches in all recreational vessels. And in 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard introduced a new law requiring operators of boats less than eight metres in length to link themselves to the engine cut-off switch when the boat’s in use.

“It’s a no-brainer,” says Jim Wielgosz, executive director of the National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada (NMMA). “It harmonizes North American regulations that are already in place in the States, and it instantly improves boater safety.”

The NMMA along with several other marine industry associations has been advocating for engine cut-off switches since 2017.  While Wielgosz still plans to get input from Canadian boat manufacturers on the potential change, he doubts there will be much resistance.

“Canadian manufacturers will follow the lead of the States. It’s the same supply chain in terms of components and the same standards that we have to follow in terms of boat certification,” he says.

There’s also the fact that approximately 85 per cent of the boats sold in Canada are manufactured in the U.S., meaning they already have the engine cut-off switch installed.

You can submit your feedback on engine cut-off switches here until May 19.

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