Fueling Safety

It is common for vessels to call for assistance when they have trouble with their motors or run out of fuel. Whenever possible, boat operators should ensure that they have an adequate supply of oil and fuel on board for the trip they plan to take.

It is good to follow the rule of thirds when planning fuel. Boaters should use one-third of their fuel on the way out, one-third on the way back, and one-third for emergencies.

Fueling can be dangerous if it is not done correctly. In some cases, gasoline vapors can explode, causing injuries or even death. Fuel leaks most commonly cause boat fires and explosions. Following safe fueling procedures are essential to reducing the risk of an explosion.

Here is a list of these procedures:  

  • Prevent spills by mooring the boat securely.
  • Before refueling, close all hatches and other openings.
  • Make sure all the electrical stuff, radios, and engines are off.
  • Remove all passengers from the vessel.
  • Putting out any smoking materials
  • Bringing any portable tanks ashore for refueling
  • Double check the correct fuel for use (gasoline vs. diesel)
  • Ground the nozzle against the filler pipe
  • Keeping the boat’s tank full and not overfilling it – boaters must prevent fuel spills and leaks into the water and hull.
  • Wipe up spills and throw away used absorbents
  • Stay with the vessel and monitor the operation until complete

All ports, hatches, and doors should be opened for ventilation and a blower should be operated for at least four minutes after fueling the vessel. It is recommended that you conduct a “sniff test” on the boat to determine whether it has an odor of gasoline.

Have Enough Fuel

The 1/3 fuel rule is a general guideline used in boating (and sometimes in aviation and other forms of transportation) to ensure safe fuel management. The rule suggests that:

  1. Use 1/3 of your fuel to get to your destination.
  2. Use 1/3 of your fuel to return.
  3. Keep the remaining 1/3 in reserve for emergencies or unforeseen circumstances.

By following the 1/3 fuel rule, boaters aim to avoid running out of fuel while away from a fueling point and to ensure they always have an emergency fuel reserve. This is especially critical in boating, where conditions can change rapidly, and being stranded without fuel can lead to dangerous situations.



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