Charter Boats

Charter boat on a lake with mountains in the background. Caption: Licensing and inspections help ensure public safety on charter boatsWhen a vessel of any size is hired for compensation (or the promise of compensation), either monetary or in-kind, to carry more than 6 passengers (or cargo) on state waters, it becomes a charter boat for the duration.

Charter boats come in many shapes and sizes. Examples include tour boats, barges, private yachts, fishing boats, and even sail boats.

State and federal certification requirements

Boats that operate on state waters are required to meet Washington State's licensing and inspections reqirements established to ensure public safety.

Certification is a must when a vessel is used as a charter boat and the owner-operator is responsible for getting the vessel certified.

Documentation requirements will vary depending on the number of passengers, type of cargo, and where the boat operates.

If you need help clarifying which certification requirements apply to you, contact the Charter Vessel Certification desk at 360-902-4489.

Washington State regulations

  • Inspection of charter boats — Certificate of inspection. RCW 88.04.035(1) (
  • Application for inspection — Inspection fee. RCW 88.04.045(1) (

Applications and forms

Copies available by calling 360-902-4489.

Related topics (workplace safety and health)

Certification of charter boats

Vessels With

If Operating on State Waters

If Operating on Federal1 Waters

7 or more passengers

Must have the following:

  • L&I operator's license (includes physical exam).
  • Washington State Certificate of Inspection.
  • Vessel stability letter (from Washington State).

Must have the following:

Fewer than 7 passengers

1 Federal (navigable) waters of the United States are those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. A determination of navigability, once made, applies laterally over the entire surface of the waterbody, and is not extinguished by later actions or events which impede or destroy navigable capacity. [CFR Title 33: Navigation and Navigable Waters PART 329 — Definition of Navigable Waters of the United States (]


End of main content, page footer follows.

Access Washington official state portal

   © Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries. Use of this site is subject to the laws of the state of Washington.

Help us improve