In less than a week, California is scheduled to open its Dungeness crabbing season. That’s good news for commercial fishermen looking to toss their pots overboard after the near-failed season of last year.  

The Coast Guard is anticipating plenty of boats on the water, too, and has launched Operation Safe Crab, an outreach program designed to help maximize vessel safety and minimal loss at sea. They will be walking the docks and spot-checking boats, with a focus on lifesaving equipment, pot-loading practices and watertight integrity of hatches and compartments.

Here’s a way to stay one step ahead of any surprise visits and make sure your boat will pass a dockside safety exam.

The Coast Guard developed an online tool that can help you quickly generate a list of required items that they will be checking for. The checklist generator at involves completion of a simple form, which includes boat type, length, number of crew, planned distance from shore, etc. A second page with a few more detailed yes or no questions follows, and then click submit. A very detailed checklist of required items will then be produced based on your input that can be printed out.

The checklist is divided into multiple reports, including bridge and navigation equipment, engine room, firefighting equipment and several other areas, depending on vessel. If you’re not sure what something means, the Info button next to that entry gives a detailed description, and sometimes a related photo.

And if you would rather have a scheduled visit instead of a possible dockside inspection, a list of USCG Fishing Vessel Safety Examiners can be downloaded from that page, too.

There’s no question that safety readiness helps prevent loss of life at sea. But portside inspections have one other benefit as well: once completed, they can often reduce the time allocated for a boarding at sea.


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