Across the United States, millions of boat and watercraft owners utilize marinas for a variety of services. Commercial marinas typically offer fuel, provisions, mooring, and maintenance services for their boat-owning customers. These facilities are tightly regulated on the local, state, and federal levels, owing to the many potential hazards marinas face in their daily operations. Marina insurance is only one part of a comprehensive risk management plan for marina owners and their staffs; implementing safety-oriented measures and adhering to regulations also serves to mitigate risks. Here is a look at some of the key safety measures and regulations marina operators must incorporate into their business practices.

Marina Regulations: Putting Safety First

Each state has its own regulations when it comes to safe operation of commercial marinas. Many of these regulations are centered on safety equipment, such as the presence and location of fire extinguishers, safety ladders, and lifesaving devices. Other regulations may mandate fuel cutoff systems in cases of fuel spills or equipment malfunction. Still others may require marina facilities to have security systems, including fencing, locking gates, lighting, and other equipment to prevent unwanted intrusion onto marina property.

There are also myriad federal regulations governing the operation of marinas. It is imperative that marina owners understand which regulations apply to the specific nature and operation of a given marina, and then to rigorously adhere to those regulations as required. Information about federal marina regulations can be found by visiting the U.S. Coast Guard website.

Safety-Oriented Marina Practices

Safety begins in any organization with the mindset that all stakeholders must put customer safety first. In commercial marinas and boatyards, a safety-oriented workplace culture can help to prevent many common hazards from interfering with operations. Most marina insurance policies require marina owners to implement safety equipment and practices as part of an overall risk management strategy; one accident alone due to unsafe conditions or negligence can wreak havoc upon the business and its assets.  There are four main areas of marina safety practices to consider:

  • Drowning prevention
  • Fire prevention
  • Electrical shock prevention
  • Environmental pollution prevention

Some marinas allow customers to swim in or near marina properties. Safety-oriented marina owners know that this can be a source of significant hazards; it is already difficult enough to navigate boats in and out of marina slips without also having to watch for swimmers in the water. If swimming is allowed, marina owners should ensure that safety ladders and life rings are within easy reach. These safety devices may also be required to help prevent overboard tragedies from occurring. Marinas may also opt to require individuals under a certain age to wear personal floatation devices (PFDs) when on marina property.


The presence of fuel in marinas poses a substantial fire risk. One errant spark can start a fire that puts lives and property in peril. Refueling operations are inherently hazardous, and marina owners should help reduce these risks by training employees on the proper use of fueling equipment. Having fire suppression equipment near fueling areas is also a good practice, and may be required by state and/or federal regulations.


Electrical shock hazards are part of marina operations. The availability of shore power for dockside/moored boats, coupled with the proximity to water, can spell disaster if proper safety precautions are not followed. All electrical equipment should be inspected regularly and replaced or repaired as needed. The National Electric Code has published standards regarding the safe design, operation, and maintenance of electrical equipment in marinas and boatyards. Maintaining electrical equipment properly can also help to reduce fire hazards.


Finally, preventing fuel and oil spills into coastal waters should be part of the safe operation in commercial marinas. Marina insurance may or may not cover pollution spills; check with your insurer for specific coverage types. Marina owners can help to keep our environment clean by training staff on the safe use of fueling and lubrication equipment. Spill management and cleanup training for all marina personnel can help to reduce the chances of a devastating environmental impact. Having quick access to devices that stop the spread of pollutants in case of spills are also a good idea, and may be required by state and federal regulations. Fuel-absorbent materials and fuel/oil booms should be present near fueling and boat maintenance areas.


With an eye toward safety, and by adhering to published regulations and standards, marine owners can help to reduce the risks associated with their operations. Facility owners should rely solely on marina insurance for protection, but should implement safety-oriented practices throughout marina operations. Doing so will make the facility and its guests safer.