Qualifications for a small craft design business?

Discussion in 'Education' started by sadornati, Dec 24, 2020.

  1. sadornati
    Joined: Jul 2014
    Posts: 5
    Likes: 1, Points: 3, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: NJ

    sadornati Junior Member

    I've been researching online and having trouble finding what exactly is required to produce small craft designs, construct, and sell them, and if I have the qualifications to do so.

    A little background.. I am early in my career and have a BS in Civil Engineering and MS in Ocean Engineering: Naval Architecture. I should have a PE license in Civil: Construction in a couple weeks (just passed the exam and was approved by the Board). I currently work in the public sector (flood prevention and dredging) and I am thinking of a side pursuit in boat design, given my organization has no issues.

    What are the usual legal requirements for designing a boat from scratch, constructing it, and selling? In terms of design stamps, insurances, paperwork, etc.

    Thanks very much.
     
    Radenpm9 likes this.
  2. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 1,833
    Likes: 583, Points: 113, Legacy Rep: 37
    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    I will be interested in what other folk have to say on this matter.
    If you have a PE license in Civil Engineering, would this cover you as a professional engineer to work in the field of naval architecture in the USA?

    I would guess that the main hurdle would be to obtain appropriate liability insurance?
    Many of the best / most famous small craft designers in the past had little or no qualifications (and certainly not PE status) - yet they were / are brilliant designers.
    But times change.....
    Are you planning on constructing boats yourself, and then selling them as a business?
    I guess you would have to meet the various USCG and ABYC standards for small craft?
     
    Will Gilmore and hoytedow like this.
  3. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
    Posts: 15,155
    Likes: 913, Points: 123, Legacy Rep: 2031
    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    In the USA having a PE allows you to sign any engineering design. It is in the honor system, where you are not supposed to do work you are not qualified for. However, there is no requirement for designing or building small craft.
     
  4. DCockey
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 4,919
    Likes: 453, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1485
    Location: Midcoast Maine

    DCockey Senior Member

    USCG Boatbuilders Handbook Boatbuilder's Handbook https://uscgboating.org/regulations/boatbuilders-handbook.php

    New Boatbuilders Home Page | Everything Boat Building https://newboatbuilders.com/ is an excellent resource for anyone getting into boat design or boat building in the US. Ike who ocsassionally posts here created and maintains the website

    Boats in the US are very different from buildings, bridges and other civil engineering type projects in terms of regulations. Certain types of boats including boats carrying over 6 (or if large enough 12) passengers for hire need to be Coast Guard inspected which means the USCG inspects the plans and vessel and determines whether the vessels are in compliance with the rules. A PE can stamp is not required. Boats which are not required to be inspected are not required to have any type of review.

    Certain new recreational boats under 20 feet in length are required to have a lalel certifying the boat as meeting applicable USCG safety standards. The label is affixed by the builder or importer and they decide how to determine that the boat meets the applicable safety standards. A PE does not need to be involved. See the websites above for more information on the safety regulations.

    Anyone building or importing new boats for sale needs to obtain an MIC code from the USCG, and affix a HIN to each boat.
     
  5. jehardiman
    Joined: Aug 2004
    Posts: 2,967
    Likes: 486, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 2040
    Location: Port Orchard, Washington, USA

    jehardiman Senior Member

    Ok, here is a quick summation:
    Anybody can build a boat for their own use in the US; however...
    the US CFR/USCG has requirement all vessels have to meet,
    the specific state may have requirements both you (the operator) and the vessel have to meet, and
    the US CFR/USCG and possibly the state, will have requirements both you (you the operator and/or you the businessman ) and the vessel have to meet in order to offer the vessel for hire.
    Anybody can build a boat for commercial sale in the US; however...
    the US CFR/USCG has specific design requirement, fabrication requirements and inspections, and specific operational tests and inspections the vessels have to meet, and
    the specific state may have requirements both you (the businessman) and the company have to meet.
    The legality of offering "engineering services" or calling yourself a "Naval Architect" in a business venture varies state to state. In Washington state, doing either without a WA state PE in Naval Architecture is illegal, as well as using an existing legitimate PE stamp from another field to stamp what the Board would consider a "Naval Architecture" technical document. See this article about the issue. Licensing of naval architects - Ocean Navigator https://www.oceannavigator.com/licensing-of-naval-architects/

    You said you took an exam, was it only the NCEES exam or was there a supplemental exam on your state laws with your application also? Generally, both are required.
     
  6. DCockey
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 4,919
    Likes: 453, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1485
    Location: Midcoast Maine

    DCockey Senior Member

    Will Gilmore likes this.
  7. sadornati
    Joined: Jul 2014
    Posts: 5
    Likes: 1, Points: 3, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: NJ

    sadornati Junior Member

  8. sadornati
    Joined: Jul 2014
    Posts: 5
    Likes: 1, Points: 3, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: NJ

    sadornati Junior Member

    Thanks for the responses. Yes I double checked and agree- the laws for NJ also state that a prof. engineer cannot claim the title as a prof. architect and vice versa.

    What’s tough to figure out is— there doesn’t seem to be any information in the NJ Board’s regulations regarding boat or vessel design. Also I did notice in NCEES where I registered for the Civil exam I do not have the option to sign up for the Naval Architecture/marine engineering exam “it is not offered this administration.” I’m wondering if NJ does not have the exam discipline.
     
  9. jehardiman
    Joined: Aug 2004
    Posts: 2,967
    Likes: 486, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 2040
    Location: Port Orchard, Washington, USA

    jehardiman Senior Member

    Once you get your PE, I would talk to your Board about their requirements. Your local SNAME chapter would also be a good source.
     
  10. DCockey
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 4,919
    Likes: 453, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1485
    Location: Midcoast Maine

    DCockey Senior Member

    My understanding, perhaps out of date, is only a few states use the NA/ME PE test.
     
  11. jehardiman
    Joined: Aug 2004
    Posts: 2,967
    Likes: 486, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 2040
    Location: Port Orchard, Washington, USA

    jehardiman Senior Member

    True, and NJ seems to only recognize the terms "professional engineer" and "professional land surveyor"; but NJ Statute 45:8-27. License required; display of license; exceptions; corporations, firms, partnerships and associations states...
    and in 45:8-28. Definitions...
    ...so there seems to be some wiggle room. It appears that in NJ a person could offer "Naval Architecture Yacht Design", but couldn't do any "engineering" calculations that effect "safeguarding life, health or property". If Naval Architecture does not effect the safety of men and property at sea (which is exactly Chapelle's definition) I don't know what is. I would suggest getting clarification.
     
  12. CDBarry
    Joined: Nov 2002
    Posts: 795
    Likes: 33, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 354
    Location: Maryland

    CDBarry Senior Member

    The law regarding "E-word" licensure is fairly complicated and varies from state to state, the major difference being states that license by discipline (CA, WA, OR, ...) and those that have just general licenses (MD and most others). In California, for example, naval architecture is explicitly exempt because the state and its subdivisions does not regulate ships or boats in any way; you don't need to get a shipbuilding permit at the county office. However, using the "E-word" might be a problem, even if you have a license from out of state. A P.E. license also allows you to get expedited approval from the Coast Guard under NVIC 10-92 for inspected vessels, however only some commercial small craft are inspected.

    Most small craft designers are unlicensed. Strictly speaking, it is wise to avoid using the "E-word" if you are unlicensed. Most real naval architects are licensed, though frequently not explicitly in naval architecture / marine engineering. This allows them to say the "E-word".

    However, the most important qualification for small craft design is being independently wealthy, or to quote the late Gary Mull, "marry well".

    Also, you would be wise to get a job in a general naval architecture firm for a while; in the right firm you will learn a lot, and probably find out that regular naval architecture is a more interesting challenge. Martin Ottaway is in New Jersey and does a wide range of interesting work; ask for Rik vanHemmen (www.martinottaway.com). As to ocean engineering, it would probably be worth looking at firms in offshore wind, wave energy or similar "blue economy" areas, and again a good deal more challenging and interesting (assuming you don't want to live in Houston). Currently "real" naval architecture / ocean engineering is one of the higher paid branches of engineering.

    Finally, join SNAME (www.sname.org) or at least go to a meeting or two. There is a section in New York City, in Philadelphia and the Washington DC area, though most have just webinars now. The (live, for now) 2021 annual meeting is in Providence RI in the fall.
     
    hoytedow and bajansailor like this.
  13. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
    Posts: 2,480
    Likes: 343, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1669
    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

    I am not an NA but spent a good portion of my life working alongside and doing the same work as an NA. However I would never say I am one. To me it's simply a matter of professional courtesy and honesty. However, anyone can call themselves a yacht designer if that is what they do. As was said some states regulate this. I live in Washington State where if you want to design boats or yachts you have to pass the state test. I think the only other state I have heard requires this is Florida. (not sure about that though)
    There are Federal Regulations that apply to recreational boats and they vary depending on the size and type of boat. Also ABYC has standards for boats that are really the defacto standard. If you are going to do boat design you need to familiarize yourself with these standards. And if you want to sell designs to Europeans you need to know the ISO standards. Canada has it's own standards but they are virtually identical to ABYC and if the boat meets ABYC standards Canada accepts that.

    Also I think Chris Barry's advice about getting a job in the industry is spot on. It's a good way to find out if this is really what you want to do as well as a good education in the realities of the boat building business in the USA. Your idea of doing this on the side is good, otherwise you'd probably starve before you sold a design. Starving artists have nothing of boat designers.
     
    bajansailor, hoytedow and CDBarry like this.
  14. CDBarry
    Joined: Nov 2002
    Posts: 795
    Likes: 33, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 354
    Location: Maryland

    CDBarry Senior Member

    I am probably a bit prejudiced because my father was a KP grad, so my interest was always in ships vs. recreational boats. (I was eventually able to work with him in the same NA firm for a few years, which was nice.) It is a bit weird that I happen to do a lot of smaller vessel stuff, though I have only designed a few rec boats; mostly as favors rather than as a business. (Tugs, though often smallish vessels, can be very interesting design challenges, as can some fishing vessels.)

    In most states the commercial NA business is Navy and (occasionally) large commercial, so the state is not worried about protecting the general public if, for example, they order a destroyer from General Dynamics or a containership from Philly Akers, and the states are specifically constitutionally barred from most aspects of boat design because of the interstate commerce clause. (This is where the "industrial exemption" comes from. The states can't regulate the engineering of objects made that are in or can be in interstate commerce, so engineers who are employees of such companies, such as boat builders don't have to be licensed. In some states, (CA) a "de minimus non curate lex" theory also exempts consultants to such companies, provided they don't offer services to the general public using the "E-word", but see state rules for specifics.) This why they don't generally care about specific boat design activities very much.

    The thing about Washington and Oregon is the fishing fleet (and probably ferries), and they have licensed NAME since before WWII. Fishing vessels expose the public to a lot of danger and a member of the general public might contract with a designer. 46 CFR 28.500 (Coast Guard rules on fishing vessels since about 1994) also requires that a person who is qualified in naval architecture develop stability instructions for the operator and set certain standards. The federal government is also constitutionally forbidden from licensing most professions; that is reserved to the states, so there is a bit of a gap as regards boats, etc., so that Coast Guard doesn't require a P.E. license (though they offer accelerated review under NVIC 10-92 to submissions from a P.E. or certain other organizations). However, the language of 46 CFR 28.500 probably triggers the combination of "public safety" and "specialized knowledge" so that general license states, and discipline specific states that include NAME could say that doing stability calculations, etc. for fishing vessels is practice of engineering vs. just "drafting services". However, I have been a WA licensee (ME and NAME) since 1990 or so and have never seen an action reported in the newsletter they send out on naval architecture services, nor any clarification. (Most boards are coy about specifics because it really depends on the details of the case, and no one likes to guess about hypotheticals.)

    Maine specifically exempts performing "work on ..." but this is massively unclear. Actually doing physical stuff to a ship or boat, and working for the entity doing it is interstate commerce and has been exempt since the Constitution was ratified. Offering engineering services may or may not be "performing work on ...", just as installing piping in a building is "performing work on ...", but selling drawings of the piping is not. Also, is an engineering firm with offices on a 199' barge exempt from all regulations; what about someone designing a 199' boiler? Florida also has a massively vague statute.

    So, look carefully at the specific state rules.

    All of this said, the offshore wind industry is taking off big time off the East Coast and will be a lot of neat ocean engineering work; much more interesting than rec boats, it will actually pay, and you will probably end up spending time at the test basins in Holland and Newfoundland (and the two in New Jersey). Subscribe to Workboat magazine and start looking around at who is doing the work - they will probably especially want someone who has a Civil P.E. and an ocean engineering background. SNAME also has an offshore energy panel that is largely involved in wind.
     
    bajansailor likes this.

  15. DCockey
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 4,919
    Likes: 453, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1485
    Location: Midcoast Maine

    DCockey Senior Member

    The Maine exemption is the statute chapter titled "Engineers" and the chapter is about engineering work and licensing so I think it should be clear that the exemption applies to engineering work, not physical labor. That appears to be consistent with the current practice in the state. I know of several folks currently working full time in Maine as boat designers who do not have engineering degrees. One successful partnership is comprised of a history graduate and a Landing School yacht design graduate.
     
Loading...
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.