History of the Maryland State Boat Act

​​Prior to 1958, boating regulations were the exclusive province and responsibility of the United States Coast Guard. However, in 1958, the U.S. Congress passed the Bonner Act (sponsored by Congressman Bonner of North Carolina) which allowed individual states to register boats and regulate their boating activity provided they adopted a State Boat Act with a numbering system approved by the United States Coast Guard.

​Initially, boaters across much of the country were concerned over the prospect of state regulation, but they respected the United States Coast Guard and feared that individuals with little or no knowledge of boating would control state regulation. Today, all of the states in the United States have established registration and regulatory systems of their own. Maryland’s first attempt at implementing a state regulatory system occurred in 1959. The proposed boating act had several flaws, as it did not earmark revenue from boating regulation for boaters and proposed a vessel classification scheme that was at odds with that of the United States Coast Guard. The Chesapeake Bay Yacht Club Association (CBYCA) coordinated opposition to the proposal along with Maryland boaters, and the proposal was defeated.

​​The Governor and General Assembly remained committed to boating. Over the next year, Maryland boaters worked with legislators and the Governor’s office to craft a new State Boat Act. Jerry Valliant, the first Commodore of the Tred Avon Yacht Club and a former Mayor of Salisbury, along with Captain Henry Sweet of Salisbury, were instrumental in crafting the State Boat Act of 1960. The new proposal was in harmony with the United States Coast Guard regulatory scheme and provided that revenue generated through regulating boating activity would be earmarked for boating and maritime purposes. Perhaps the most important idea was that the boaters in Maryland would administer boating. The boating community supported the State Boat Act and it was enacted in 1960.

​​The Annotated Code of Maryland (Natural Resources Article, §8-704) requires the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to solicit the advice and opinions of officials of representative boating associations, yacht clubs, and local, State, or federal governments or officials, having knowledge or experience with the subject matter of the proposed regulations. These representatives are appointed by the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and serve as an advisory committee known as the Boat Act Advisory Committee (BAAC). The BAAC has a key role in promoting and implementing recreational boating activity on Maryland waters.