Charter Boats

When 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 of the trip.

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 requirements 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.

See below for state and federal certification requirements that may apply to your boat.

See L&I's workplace health and safety requirements for ALL boats.

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 or email to

WA State Regulations Application and Forms

Copies are available by calling 360-902-4489.

Certification of Charter Boats
Number of Passengers Operating on State Waters Operating on 1 Federal (navigable) 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).
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)

Navigability Determination for the 13th District