SANTA CRUZ – The California Air Resource Board has released new regulations for boat engines that worry some sport fishing and whale watching charters about the impact on their operations.

CARB is expected to adopt regulations that will require charter boat owners to register in certain engine classifications. The regulations are part of California’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions statewide.

Similar regulations have already entered into force for land vehicles, such as buses and semi-trailers. CARB has identified harbor ships as some of the worst air pollutants. Therefore, he decided it was the next step towards net zero emissions across California.

“Essentially, an average harbor craft has roughly the same emission levels as about 160 buses,” said Bonnie Soriano, CARB business manager. “They are considerably dirtier than road equipment would be. Road equipment is at the forefront of reducing their emissions.

The regulations will require chartered vessels to upgrade their engines to cleaner combustion engines. The new CARB regulations would give chartered vessels the choice between Tier III and Tier IV engines, with higher tier engines having cleaner combustion.

However, the technology that CARB regulates is not fully available to boat owners. Although Tier III and Tier IV engines physically exist, CARB has not yet approved them. The regulator is in the process of approving these items.

Preventive regulations frustrated many boat owners who would be affected by the decision.

“They are trapped behind technology that is not available to meet the new CARB standards,” said Casey Beyer, CEO of the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce.

The regulations will require boat owners to get the cleanest engine possible that is specified for their boat, according to CARB’s director of transportation and toxics, David Quiros. Therefore, if a level IV engine is specified for a certain model of boat, any owner of that model should obtain the highest level option. Otherwise, a Tier III engine will suffice.

However, Tier III engines have their own caveat. If a charter boat owner opts for a Tier III engine, then CARB will require an additional upgrade of these boats. These boat owners are to install a diesel particulate filter, which acts as a carbon filter for cleaner combustion, on the Tier III engine by the end of 2026.

Ken Stagnaro, boat captain for a sport fishing and whale watching company in Santa Cruz, expressed concern about the safety and convenience of including a diesel particulate filter on any boat. The engine component can be a big fire hazard and can reduce passenger capacity by 25%, he added.

“Putting them on a passenger ship that hasn’t been tested in the real world is ridiculous, to be honest with you. They go through all of these steps that should be done for safety, ”Stagnaro said. “Why would I want to get this when one day they go out with this Tier IV engine that’s not a firebox in the back of my boat?” “

However, it is much more than a lack of current approval for engines that frustrates boat owners. Many owners would have to modify their boats to accommodate the size of the new engines, which could leave their boats and businesses out of service for long periods of time.

According to Stagnaro, the need for a planning and review process alone with the Coast Guard takes six months of operation away from chartered vessels. Then the owners have to do the construction on the boat and have the changes inspected and approved, which can add another year to the wait time.

The cost of engine upgrades alone could set businesses back. Stagnaro recently retrofitted one of his ships to a Level III engine and the effort cost him over $ 50,000. However, if someone needs to cut into their boat to make more room, the modifications can cost an additional $ 200,000, he added.

In some cases, upgrading a boat’s engine will not be an option. Wood and fiberglass boats might not be able to perform the upgrades due to structural issues, CARB noted. This could force many companies to have to replace their boats.

“If it’s too much expense, it’s not worth it for me,” Stagnaro said. “If our boats become obsolete, a lot of people won’t. They just can’t do it. Getting into debt like that at my age, being in debt like that for 10 years or more, forget it.

Stagnaro predicts that seven out of ten charter boats will not be able to withstand the financial pressure.

CARB anticipates that the regulations will pass costs on to charter boat customers with an increase of approximately 14% per ticket. Stagnaro thinks the increase could be much larger. He believes ticket prices could more than double, especially if boat owners have to replace their boat with a new one.

There are a few grant options for business owners who need to retool their boats, according to Soriano. While the grants can help cover some of the upgrade costs for charter boat owners, they are not compliance grants. Instead, grants are given to homeowners who plan to upgrade early or implement additional upgrades, she added.

However, CARB is aware of the high cost of retrofitting a boat. Therefore, it has implemented up to six years of compliance extensions for charter boat owners who need time to upgrade their boats.

“We are gradually introducing things so that companies have time to react and we can also focus on the highest (carbon) emissions in the first place,” Soriano said.

CARB released the proposed regulatory brief on Sept. 24, which began the 45-day public comment period, according to Soriano. This comment period ends on November 8, leaving the regular governing body meeting on November 19 open for an initial discussion of the regulations. Submit your comments online at

The final review of the regulations will take place in early 2022, with approved regulations expected to come into effect in early 2023.

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