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  Are Larger "Portable" Fuel Tanks Legal?

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Author Topic:   Are Larger "Portable" Fuel Tanks Legal?
Anchor7 posted 04-13-2001 09:53 PM ET (US)   Profile for Anchor7   Send Email to Anchor7  
My read of the CG regulations are that "portable" fuel tanks must be less than 7 gallons capacity. Any fuel tank over 7 gallons is not a considerd a "portable" tank and must have a vent which is plumbed overboard. In theory, any tank larger than 7 gallons on board your boat without an overboard vent would fail a coast guard auxiliary courtesy safety inspection, assuming the inspector knew the regs. It seems the industry gets away with this because the boat/engine manufacturers don't sell the larger "portable" tanks, and the tank manufacturers (tempo/moeller, etc.), are selling a tank only, and are not responsible for how you use it. This is a gray area in the safety regs which has always bothered me, possibly leaving the boat owner on the hook if something goes wrong. I don't know how an insurance company would respond to a claim under these circumstances. This issue is particularly important to small Whaler owners since there appears to be a whole series of oversized "portable" tanks developed just for them. Any comments?
carlz posted 04-13-2001 10:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for carlz  Send Email to carlz     
Whatis the rationale of having the vent plumbed overboard? How would you approach this with an underseat tank?
Dick posted 04-13-2001 11:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick  Send Email to Dick     
There are different regulations for outboard and inboard powered boats.
Outboard vented tanks are not required on an outboard powered boat.
I run a 27 gal "portable" tank on my Montauk with a vented cap and it is legal.
The Coast Guard Auxillery serves a purpose but in the most part are uninformed as to the requirements of outboard boats vs inboard boats. They have no right to board or inspect your boat unless invited. Their inspections are courtesy inspections only, if you happen to run into one who is courtious. They have no powers to cite you for anything and most are pompus Grand Banks owners with nothing better to do than get in the way. There is no way I would ever allow a C.G. Aux person on my boat.
All Tempo, Mirax, Moeller, Pate tanks meet the required regulations for above deck fuel tanks. If they didn't they wouldn't be selling them concidering the liability factor.
stagalv posted 04-14-2001 12:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for stagalv  Send Email to stagalv     
Hey Dick,

I just want you to know that I am certainly surprised by your comment. I am both a Coast Guard Reservist (not auxiliary) AND a Grand Banks dealer.

The CG Aux is actually a vital part of our "Team Coast Guard". They volunteer their time and assets to assist the reserve and active duty team. Training of the public and courtesy marine inspections are just a part of their duties. Maybe one day they can assist you or someone you know.

Grand Banks Trawlers are top of the line in quality, reliability, resale value and owner satisfaction. It is usually a well salted yachtsman who owns a GB.

AZdave posted 04-14-2001 03:30 AM ET (US)     Profile for AZdave  Send Email to AZdave     
My read is that the Coast Guard treats tanks of six gallons and less as portable. They think you will pick this size tank up from the back of your Whaler, set it on the pavement next to the gas pump, and fill it. They do not think you will remove a larger tank from your boat when filling. Thus, the tank is considered permanent, and you must have the equipment consistant with a permanent tank. If you have a plastic tank in a fiberglass boat on a trailer with rubber tires, there may be some real static electricity issues. Fumes are heavier than air, and could produce an explosive mix with air in an open hull. I know some really smart people who have had close calls with flammable vapors. I would include myself in this group, except for the part about "really smart". Be safe, have fun! Dave
whalernut posted 04-14-2001 06:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for whalernut  Send Email to whalernut     
My experience with a Coast Gaurd Auxiherist was very pleasant. He was a retired older fellow and he was very excited to inspect my Currituck. He said"I haven`t inspected one of these models in a long time". We talked about fishing and all kinds of boat things. He gave me a few coupons for 10% off at West Marine. He showed me all of the latest safety equipment, like the new automatic opening Lifejackets($300). All in all I had a very good experience and my boat passed the inspection and would allow him back on my vessel again and hope that he comes back again. Regards-Jack Graner.
bigz posted 04-14-2001 07:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for bigz    
"Fuel tanks secured so they cannot be moved in case of fire or other emergency are considered permanently installed. There are no gallon capacity limits to determine if a fuel tank is portable. If the weight of a fuel tank is such that persons on board cannot move it, the Coast Guard considers it permanently installed."

The key factor here is that ventilation must be to the atmosphere in the case of the larger "portable" fuel tanks (of a reasonable gallon-age that it can be actually physically moved when full) that are totally exposed to the atmosphere the vented fuel cap would be legal.

beby138 posted 04-14-2001 08:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for beby138  Send Email to beby138     
Now i'm concerned!,i've a plastic Moeller 12 g tank under the front seat on my 13'68,made some brackets to hold it on position so is not "portable" anymore,where can i find all those CG regulations?
Anchor7 posted 04-14-2001 09:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for Anchor7  Send Email to Anchor7     
Interesting comments above. My information on the 7 gallon rule for “portable” was from a local CGA (Coast Guard Auxiliary) web site, but it appears that the national CGA no longer uses this rule ( look under Boat Exams and Safety Checks).

Dick, looks like you are right, the federal regulations exempt outboard powered boats from the overboard tank venting rules, and a whole bunch of other fuel system requirements (see Sup Part J. 183.501) I took this excerpt, which states “[the fuel system regulation] applies to all boats that have gasoline engines, except outboard engines, for electrical generation, mechanical power, or propulsion.”

Bigz, I found the CG rules you refer to which define a “portable” tank (, from which I took this: “Fire extinguishers are required on boats if any of the following conditions exist…There are permanently installed fuel tanks. (Fuel tanks secured so they cannot be moved in case of fire or other emergency are considered permanently installed. There are no gallon capacity limits to determine if a fuel tank is portable. If the weight of a fuel tank is such that persons on board cannot move it, the Coast Guard considers it permanently installed.)”

One could certainly argue that a 28 gal. Tempo “portable” tank, full of gas and weighing about 200 lb., is not really moveable. But it looks like the only implication for an outboard powered boat is that, if the tank is not moveable, you must have a fire extinguisher on board, no big deal.

So, why do outboard boat manufacturers go to great lengths to install tanks which meet all those federal regulations for fuel systems, even if they don’t have to? I found this web site which provides info. for boat manufacturers (, and they state: “[even though] the fuel system regulations don't apply to outboard powered boats, don't take that too seriously. The industry tends to follow the ABYC standards, which are tougher than the Federal standards. ABYC fuel system standards apply to outboard powered boats with permanently installed fuel systems. If you ever get dragged into court, that's what the complainants attorney will ask you. "Do you meet ABYC standards"? So follow the Federal rules for inboards too, even if you're making an outboard powered boat, unless you intend to use only portable fuel tanks.”

Well, it looks like boat manufacturers don’t use these oversize “portable” tanks to avoid potential law suits, but as far as I can tell it’s OK for boaters to use them.

Having said that, is there any safety reason for not using them? The overflow vent issue seems kind of lame, since the fill and vent opening are right near each other, so you would be able to avoid a spill inside the boat just by looking. I know there are all kinds of warnings at fuel stations to remove portable plastic tanks from vehicles, placing them on the ground for refueling, to avoid static electricity explosions. Does this apply to boats too? Finally, one could argue that being able to throw your 6 gal. portable tanks overboard in the event of an engine fire may be a good thing (but after you survive the fire, you may be prosecuted for polluting!).

Oh well, please forgive my rambling, but that’s what happens when you are currently “boatless”. Regards, Larry S.

Dick posted 04-14-2001 10:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for Dick  Send Email to Dick     
Didn't meen to come down so hard on the C. G. Aux or Grand Banks. The only bad thing to say about Grand Banks is that I can't afford one.
I've had a couple bad experiences with the Aux, enough said.
printjunky posted 04-20-2001 02:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for printjunky  Send Email to printjunky     
Care to detail you bracketing configuration? Sounds like a good way to get some weight forward, and possibly out of the way. Maybe move this part of the thread to Repairs/Mods.
I'll check there.
Thanks, Shawn
beby138 posted 04-20-2001 06:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for beby138  Send Email to beby138     
Open a new Topic on Rep/Mod and I'll explain you ,then we can get ideas from everybody.

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