License ALL mariners

I may sound like a broken record on many hot topics, but on this one I just don’t get it. Would we ever consider allowing a 14-year-old or anyone else without a license to operate a motorized vehicle on an interstate highway? Never! Not a chance!

How about on our nation’s waterways? No, you say? Well, you’re dead wrong. Just walk into a marine store, purchase a vessel, and away you go to anywhere you want on the water. Does this sound crazy? In my opinion, “yes.” Our marine highways operate that way. Why? I am not sure, other than it is rumored that there are 40 million boat owners in the U.S. — and they have clout. That might be 40 million votes against requiring licenses for operators of pleasure boats.

I have been a licensed mariner for a long time and I have witnessed way too many near misses to count on many U.S. inland rivers.

I am writing to say enough is enough. It is time to require all operators of all vessels, no matter the type, to have a driver’s license to operate them. It is absolutely crazy to think that because people operate on the water they do not need a license. This must stop now.

States that have navigable waters should develop a boat operator-licensing program as soon as possible. This can produce revenue and save lives at the same time. States already have a driver’s license department, so it would be relatively easy to include boat licenses. It is a no brainer.

About the author

Capt. Alan Bernstein

Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats in Cincinnati, is a licensed master and a former president of the Passenger Vessel Association. He can be reached at 859-292-2449 or

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