Regulations, Standards, Statements, and Developments Resulting in More Boat Builders Offering Propeller Guards

Several regulations, standards, statements, and developments have resulted in more boat builders offering propeller guards. Among these are:

U.S. Code of Federal Regulations

U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 46: Shipping Part 160 – Lifesaving Equipment Subpart 160.156 – Rescue Boats and Fast Rescue Boats (SOLAS) requires each propeller of a rescue boat be fitted with a propeller guard to receive Coast Guard approval of a rescue boat, including fast rescue boat, complying with SOLAS and the IMO LSA Code, for use on waters other than protected waters as defined in 46 CFR 175.400.

U.S. Coast Guard Requires Life Boats to Have Propeller Guards

The United States Coast Guard has a checklist for reviewing lifeboats that requires them to have propeller guards.

USCG Lifeboat Requirements

USCG Lifeboat Requirements for Propeller Guards

Tenders for Commercial Large Yachts Now Also Serve as SOLAS Rescue Boats So They are Required to Have Propeller Guards

While the standards go by different names around the world (Large Yacht Code, Mega Yacht Code, Large Commercial Yacht Code, etc), large commercial yachts used for Pleasure or Sport 20 meters or longer (about 78 feet or longer) are required to carry a SOLAS rescue boat. Since these large charter craft already carry one or more tenders, now one of those tenders serves double duty as the SOLAS rescue boat. As mentioned earlier, SOLAS rescue boats must have propeller guards.

SOLAS Rescue Boats are required to be orange. Many mega yacht charters are not keen on orange tenders, so in 2003 Zodiac began offering a white SOLAS rescue boat that comes with with quick removable orange covers for the collar, deck, and seats. Zodiac calls it a Prolux 560 Convertible Rescue Boat/Tender.

Zodiac 560 SOLAS Tender

Zodiac 560 SOLAS Tender

Several other boat builders are going after this deluxe tender / SOLAS rescue boat market created by the Large Commercial Yacht

NSW Maritime (Australia)

NSW Maritime (equivalent of a provincial Coast Guard) in Australia reported in May 2009 that several boating organizations had decided to fit propeller guards to all outboard motors. Those organizations include Surf Life Saving Australia (NSW), Defence Maritime Services, the Australian Sea Cadets, and the Royal Australian Navy.

NSW Maritime Propeller Guard Statement

NSW Maritime Propeller Guard Statement

Ship Certification Organizations Such as Det Norske Veritas Require Lifeboats to Have Propeller Guards

Det Norske Veritas, a well known vessel certification, ship classification organization, requires large vessels to use propeller guards on their lifeboats.

DNV Lifeboats - Rescue Boats Standard cover

DNV Lifeboats – Rescue Boats Standard cover

DNV Lifeboat - Rescue Boat Propeller Guard Standard

DNV Lifeboat – Rescue Boat Propeller Guard Standard

The London Olympics in 2012 Require Propeller Guards

The 2012 London Olympics require coach boats, media boats, and race official boats at the yachting competitions to have propeller guards as seen in this quote from Sail-World (Australia).

Propeller Guards – Must Have for Sailing Club and School Boats
January 12, 2012

“The Precedent has been set by the most important yachting regatta on the planet for one reason. At the Beijing Olympics it was mandatory for all of the coach boats, media boats and all the race officials’ boats to have propeller guards. Prop Guards were the selected brand for the 2008 Olympics and the organizers have signed a deal with Prop Guard to do the same thing for London 2012.”

A June 20, 2012 report on BoatGuideWeb says Beneteau is an official supplier to the London 2012 Olympic Games and just turned over a fleet of 23 powerboats to accommodate referees, journalists, organizers, and VIPs during the Olympic Games. Beneteau says they are confident the vessels will provide the best possible platform to view the sailing events.

A October 18,2010 release on London2012 reports the boat and marine services contracts have been awarded for the 2012 London Olympics and the London Paralympic Games. Purchase contracts include 64 RIBs from RIBcraft, a British rigid inflatable boat manufacturer.South Boats Special Projects Ltd will supply a 11 meter vessel. 21 second hand RIBs were purchased from America’s Cup Management Company. Suzuki was approved as sole supplier of up to 90 four stroke outboards to power the RIBs. Many other vessels will be chartered.

Australian Youth Sailing Clubs Are Using Propeller Guards

Several Youth Sailing Clubs require propeller guard on their coaching and rescue boats in Australia. Among the clubs using guards are Balmain, Greenwich Flying Squadron, Lane Cove, the RSYS, the CYCA, MHYC, Northbridge and Avalon Sailing Clubs, and Woolwich Scouts per an August 2009 letter in Afloat, an Australian boating publication.

Yanmar Makes Optional Gearcase for Propeller Guards

Yamaha D27 and D36 (27 and 36 horsepower diesel outboards) had an optional lower leg that included pre-formed holes for mounting propeller guards as shown in their model year 2000 service manual.

Yanmar D27 & D36 Diesel Outboard Service Manual cover

Yanmar D27 & D36 Diesel Outboard Service Manual cover

Yanmar Preforms Propeller Guard Mounting Holes

Yanmar preforms propeller guard mounting holes in diesel outboard lower legs

We cover Yanmar’s prop drive leg more in depth on our Yanmar produced diesel outboards with mounting holes for propeller guards page.

Legal Cases

Besides having to fund to their ongoing legal defense in propeller cases, the industry has lost some substantial cases:

  • Brochtrup v. Sea Ray & Mercury Marine 3.8 million resulting in a judgement against Brunswick for about $2 million
  • Robert Bell v. MasterCraft approximately $31 million
  • Numerous cases have been settled

Propeller Guards Continue to Be Improved

Rear screens that swing up to reduce drag when underway, the use of shaped rods to reduce drag (flattened or elliptical cross section), and drive manufacturers offering drives with prop guard bolt holes pre-formed to reduce possible corrosion issues are among the relatively recent improvements. These combined with the propeller guard test protocol providing a consistent test procedure and some selection charts beginning to make their way to the market are removing some of the previous barriers to propeller guards.

Propeller Accidents Continue to Happen

Propeller accidents continue to happen. Each one is a call for action.

In summary, an ever increasing number of boat manufacturers are adding prop guards as an option because:

  • Yanmar offered a special lower leg for some of its drives with pre-formed mounting holes for adding a propeller guard.
  • Several boat builders are manufacturing SOLAS Tenders with propeller guards for very large yachts.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard requires lifeboats to have propeller guards.
  • Standards including the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, require propeller driven rescue and fast rescue boats to have propeller guards.
  • NSW Maritime (Austalia) is urging the use of propeller guards in several applications.
  • Ship Certification organizations require lifeboats and rescue boats on larger vessels to have propeller guards.
  • The London 2012 Olympics is requiring over a hundred boats used with the sailing and rowing events to have propeller guards (as did the Beijing 2008 Olympics).
  • Legal cases continue to be a drain on the industry
  • Propeller guards continue to be improved
  • Propeller accidents continue to happen


  1. Do all ships (including non US Flagged ships) entering US waters require to have their Lifeboats & Rescue boats fitted with Propeller Guards or is it only restricted to only US flagged ships & USCG approved lifeboats & Rescue boats ?

    • I do not know. We focus on boats, not on ships. For a life boat to be U.S. Coast Guard approved it must meet Federal Code that includes the propeller guard requirement
      My GUESS us that it does not apply to non US flagged ships.

      • Thank you Gary. Appreciate your feedback. Uncertainty with regards to if non US Flagged ships can enter & operate in US waters with or without the LB/RB prop guard is the real cause of confusion for all major lifeboat makers in Korea / China (they constitute 70% of the world market) & also ship owners. I have been scouting around all US regulations, however unable to find any circular which states that ” it is applicable for only US flagged ships & USCG approved boats only “. Would be grateful if you could communicate, if ever as & when you do get any relevant details.

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