Mississippi Boating Law Basics
Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks – Law Enforcement Division
1505 Eastover Drive
Jackson, MS 39211

Registration & Titling Requirements
Laws for Required Wearing of PFDs
Additional Equipment Requirements
Mufflers & Noise Levels
Requirements for Waste, Oil & Garbage Disposal
Mandatory Education & Age Requirements
Reckless & Negligent Operation
Boat Speed Limits
Special Activities Restrictions & Considerations
Operating Under the Influence
Officer Authority, Compliance & Assistance
Accident Reporting Requirements
Other State Boating Laws

State Law vs. Federal Law

These requirements are state specific. Other states may have similar laws. It is your responsibility to know the laws that govern the bodies of water upon which you boat. Federal law preempts minimum state controls for boat and equipment standards. The United States Coast Guard has enforcement authority of federal laws and regulations on all federal and navigable waters in the United States that are not privately held. However, individual states can impose requirements beyond federal rules to meet uniquely hazardous local conditions or enforce local laws and regulations directed at safe boat operation. This document covers only the basic boating requirement of Mississippi's waterways and should not be used as a legal reference. For more information on Mississippi's boating laws and regulations, visit http://www.mdwfp.com/.

Registration and Titling Requirements:

To operate a vessel on the waters of Mississippi, it must be registered with Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks (MDWFP) and display current validation decals. Specifically, any motorized vessel and all sailboats (with or without a motor) must submit a proper application and registration fee to:

Registration and Titling

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks
1505 Eastover Dr.
Jackson, MS 39211-6322

Registration and Titling

Once in receipt of the application and fee, you will be issued a Mississippi Certificate of Number. This pocket-sized registration card must be kept aboard the boat at all times and be readily available for inspection by a law enforcement officer. You will also be issued a set of Validation Decals. The boat registration and validation decals are valid for three years from the last day of the month you registered.

The boat registration and validation decals are valid for three years!

You must display your validation decals and registration numbers (beginning with MI) on the forward half of your vessel well above the waterline where it can be easily read by law enforcement officials. Letters and numbers are to be block style of at least 3" tall and must be black or another color that contrasts with the hull. Letters and numbers are to read from left to right and have a space or hyphen to separate letter and numbers. The validation decals must be affixed within six inches and inline and in front of the registration numbers.

Titling your vessel and/or outboard motor in Mississippi is not mandatory. If you choose to title your property, keep your certificate of title in a safe place - it is your proof of ownership.

Back to top

Laws for Required Wearing of PFDs :

In addition to the federal PFD carriage requirements, Mississippi has the following requirements for wearing a PFD:

PFD requirements
  • Children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a Type I, II, or III U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD whenever underway in a vessel under 26 feet in length. Children’s PFDs must be securely fastened and be size appropriate for the wearer.
  • Every person on board a personal watercraft (PWC) or being towed behind a PWC must wear a Coast Guard approved PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not intended for use while participating in tow sports or other high impact sports.
  • Children 12 and under must wear a PFD underway in boats less than 26 feet!

    Back to top

    Additional Equipment Requirements:

    Additional Equipment Requirements
    In addition to the minimum federal equipment requirements, some states or certain bodies of water may require additional safety gear to be carried aboard. Check with your local waterway authorities before going out. Mississippi does, however, recommend the following additional safety equipment on all bodies of water:

    Recommended Additional Safety Equipment!

    • Compass and charts
    • Marine VHF radio
    • Anchoring equipment
    • Bailing device
    • Spare parts & tools
    • Extra starting battery
    • Oars or paddles
    • Flashlight
    Back to top

    Mufflers and Noise Levels:

    An effective muffling system is required for the exhaust of each engine.Any boat operated on the waters of Mississippi must be muffled with a permanently installed muffler or similar device to effectively reduce noise.

    Mufflers and Noise Levels

    In general, do not modify your factory exhaust if the result makes it louder!

    Loud boat noise not only bothers other operators and users of the waterways, it can also disrupt peace ashore because of sound's ability to travel great distances over water.Excessive noise can also prevent a boat operator from hearing other boats' sound signals and warnings and can prevent you from hearing approaching law or rescue personnel.

    Back to top

    Requirements for Waste, Oil and Garbage Disposal:

    • Federal regulations and equipment standards established jointly by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard govern the uses of marine sanitation devices (MSDs).
    • All boats with onboard toilet facilities must have a method to collect and contain all waste products, preventing it from entering surrounding waters. Specifically, it is illegal to discharge untreated sewage, or any waste derived from sewage, into any federally controlled or Mississippi state waters.

    All installed MSDs must be US Coast Guard certified
    and have a “Y” valve in proper positioning!

    Requirements for Waste, Oil and Garbage Disposal
    • Type I and II MSDs must have a “Y” valve secured to allow for waste to enter a proper on board holding tank for future drainage at a pump-out station. Type III MSDs will typically have a built-in holding tank with no external plumbing and cannot be pumped overboard. Type III MSDs must be pumped ashore at a proper facility.

    It is illegal to dump raw sewage, oil or garbage into any Mississippi state waters!

    • Discharge of fuel, oil or any oil product, including contaminated bilge water, is strictly prohibited. All boats 26 feet or longer must properly display a 5x8 inch Oily Waste Discharge placard near the bilge pump switch.
    • All boats 26 feet or longer, when operating in waters under federal jurisdiction, must display an informational placard on the subject of federal marine pollution prevention laws. The placard must be 4x9 inches and placed in a location where crew and passengers can read it.
      Additionally, vessels on waters south of Interstate Highway (I-10) must have on board a clearly marked refuse bin for trash, waste or other garbage that is clearly labeled. Refuse bins such as a can must have a lid and garbage bags must have a tie or other method to secure the trash from getting out.
    • All boats 40 feet or longer operating more than 3 miles from shore that are equipped with a galley and berthing, must also carry a Waste Management Plan. This plan must outline procedures for proper marine pollution regulations for garbage management and designate a person in charge for carrying out this plan.
    Back to top

    Mandatory Education and Age Requirements:

    Education Requirements
    • All persons born after June 30th, 1980 must successfully complete a boating education course approved by the MDWFP to legally operate a vessel. Proof of course completion must be carried aboard by those required to have a certificate.
    • In addition, all boaters less than 12 years of age must be accompanied on board by and adult who is at least 21 years of age.
    Back to top

    Reckless & Negligent Operation:

    The failure to exercise the degree of care necessary to prevent endangering persons, property or wildlife may be considered careless or negligent operation. Therefore, no person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, wakeboard, tube or similar device in manner that can bring harm to you, your passengers, other boaters or the environment.

    Some activities considered negligent or reckless operation in Mississippi:

    • Speeding in no-wake zones or boating in areas marked as restricted.
    • Weaving through congested waterways and other boat traffic or failure to follow the navigation rules.
    • Exceeding the weight or number of persons on board or overpowering the craft with an engine larger than designated as listed on the capacity plate.
    • Allowing a passenger to ride on the gunwale, bow, transom or in any other position that is obviously dangerous or restricts the operator’s visibility.
    • Chasing, harassing or disturbing wildlife with your vessel.
    • Additionally, boats operated south of I-10 must not follow within 100 feet of a water skier or cause a potentially harmful wake within 100 feet of harbors, marinas or boat ramps. Also, operators must not jump or attempt to jump another vessel’s wake within 100 feet of that vessel.

    Additional laws that apply to personal watercraft (PWC):

    Rules for PWCs
    • PWCs must not be operated in a manner that requires you or another boater to swerve at the last possible moment to avoid a collision.
    • PWCs must not be operated at excessive speeds causing the watercraft to jump the wake of another vessel or travel unnecessarily close to that vessel.
    • Specifically, south of I-10, the follow requirements must be met:
              • PWCs must have a self-circling device or lanyard cut-off switch attached to the rider.
              • PWCs must not follow within 100 feet of another water skier or another vessel for the purpose of jumping or attempting to jump that vessels wake. This 100 foot distance must also be maintained when operating near any other occupied vessel, unless passing or crossing in accordance with the navigation rules.
    Back to top

    Boat Speed Limits:

    Boat Speed Limits

    Boat speed limits are regulated by law for certain areas and conditions. When no speed limit is posted, operate your boat so that it will not endanger others. Always keep a proper lookout and never load a boat with passengers or cargo beyond its safe carrying capacity. You are responsible for your wake!

    • White buoys with red or orange markings and black letters will indicate speed limits and no-wake zones.
    • When operating your boat in a no-wake zone you must proceed at a speed at which the vessel does not produce a wake.
    • In times of restricted visibility such as in fog or stormy conditions, you must be able to stop your vessel within half the distance of forward visibility. At all times, operators must be prepared to avoid a collision and have engines ready for immediate maneuvering.
    Back to top

    Special Activities Restrictions and Considerations:

    Many states regulate certain water sports activities such as waterskiing, diving and hunting from a vessel. For your safety, and for those who may be in the water, you should learn and abide by these special laws.

    Special Activities

    Special Activities, Restrictions & Requirements:

    • Boaters (and PWC operators) engaged in towing a water skier or similar device must have another person aboard older than 10 years of age observing the towed person(s).
    • All boats or PWCs used for skiing or towing operations must be rated for at least 3 people to accommodate the operator, observer and retrieved skier.
    • When towing a person on water skis or similar device behind a PWC, the participant must wear a properly fitting U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD. A ski-belt is not acceptable for those being towed behind a PWC.
    • It is strongly recommended that persons towed behind vessels other than a PWC wear a Coast Guard approved PFD as well. A ski-belt is acceptable but is not Coast Guard approved.
    • Towing activities and PWC operations should only take place only during daylight hours (sunrise to sunset).
    • Vessels engaged in scuba diving and snorkeling must display a red and white diver down flag.
    • Vessels engaged in diving activity and restricted in their ability to maneuver, must hoist a blue and white alfa flag when conducting operations in federal and international waters. This does not replace the diver's flag.
    Back to top

    Operating Under the Influence

    State Operating Under the Influence (OUI) laws are becoming more stringent. As on the roadways, on-water enforcement officers may administer sobriety tests and conduct a chemical test to determine level of sobriety. Specifically:

    Boting Under the Influence

    In Mississippi

    • The Mississippi Alcohol Boating Safety Act prohibits anyone from boating while intoxicated from either alcohol or drugs or combination thereof.
    • Boaters that have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.10% or greater are considered boating/operating under the influence (OUI).
    • By operating your boat in the state of Mississippi, you have consented to and must submit to evidentiary testing for drug and alcohol use if requested by law enforcement personnel.
    • Mississippi law prescribes fines and possible jail times for those who violate state OUI laws.
    Back to top

    Officer Authority, Compliance & Assistance

    Officers of the MDWFP and the Department of Marine Resources, as well as other authorized law enforcement or peace officers, have the authority to stop and inspect vessels to enforce Mississippi and federal boating laws. Additionally, the United States Coast Guard has enforcement authority on federally controlled waters.

    Officer Authority

    Officers of the MDWFP have the authority to stop and inspect vessels!

    Boat operators must immediately yield and reduce speed when being overtaken, approached or directed by a law enforcement official. When operating in an area of law enforcement activity, you must reduce speed and give a wide berth until beyond the area of operation of the law enforcement vessel.

    Back to top

    Accident Reporting Requirements

    Accident Reporting
    • Anyone involved in a boating accident is required to stop and give assistance as long as it will not personally endanger the operator, passengers or vessel.
    • You should always be prepared to exchange information like name, address, phone numbers and boat registration numbers with other parties involved and/or law enforcement personnel.
    • Any boating accident that involves death or the disappearance of a person, or involves personal injury that causes a person to be disabled for more than 24 hours, must provide a written report of the accident to the MDFWP (if the accident occurred north of I-10) or with the Marine Resources (if the accident occurred south of I-10) within 48 hours after the occurrence.
    • If the accident results in property damage in excess of $100 you must report it within 5 days (to the MDFWP if the accident occurred north of I-10 or with the Marine Resources if the accident occurred south of I-10). However, if a person dies or disappears, a report must be filed within 48 hours (see above).
    Back to top
    Other Boating Laws

    Other State Boating Laws

    Often times counties, cities and districts within a state will have different, more restrictive laws. Boating laws are subject to change and it is your responsibility to be informed of the law as it applies to you and your on-water activities. To be absolutely certain about specific boating laws in your state it is wise to contact your state boating agency.

    It is Your Responsibility Be Informed!


    We provide this information as a service and strive to keep this website up to date. Please let us know of any inconsistencies by bringing them to our attention at once at onlinecourse@boatus.com. Resources for these pages include state statutes, state web pages and state approved boating guides. BoatU.S. is not responsible for any misinterpretation of the law or any change in the law that is not adequately reflected in these pages. Damages as a result of failing to abide by stated law shall not be the responsibility of BoatU.S., BoatU.S. Foundation or its employees.

    Back to BoatU.S. Foundation Homepage


    2008, BoatUS Foundation. All Rights Reserved.