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Marine Patrol

The Berrien County Sheriff's Office maintains a Marine Division with a statutory responsibility to investigate water related deaths and the enforcement of the Marine Laws.  At its disposal, the Marine Division has a fleet of various sized vessels and watercraft. 

Berrien County has 86 inland lakes and three major rivers as primary patrol responsibilities for the Sheriff's Office.  The Marine Division shares responsibilities with the U.S. Coast Guard patrolling 42 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline within our county.

For more information regarding boating in Michigan Safety visit



Pursuant to Public Act 451 of 1994, 324.44501 a “Boat Livery” means a place of business or any location where a person rents of offers for rent any vessel other than a non-motorized raft, to the general public for non-commercial use on the waters of this state.  *Raft also applies to canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, etc.

Any place of business that falls under such order of compliance is asked to contact the Marine Division to schedule the necessary inspections.  Inspections are scheduled by appointment only.  Please make sure all vessels and equipment are ready to be inspected at the time of the appointment.

To schedule your inspection, please complete the Application for Permit to Operate a Boat Livery, PR1930. Forms can be uploaded by using the link below.

Please include a contact name, phone number and email on the form and indicate whether any vessels are new for inspection.  Once completed, email form to:  Marine Division.  Appointments will be scheduled based upon the availability of our inspectors. There is a 2.00 fee per motorized vessel. Other fees may apply for larger vessels. Permits will be issued at the conclusion of a successful inspection.

For Livery Operators of non-motorized vessels, please complete the application and email to Marine Division. There is no fee for the application. New or special circumstances may warrant an inspection. Once your completed application has been received and reviewed permits will be emailed to you with a copy retained in our office.

We look forward to working with you this year in our cooperative efforts to provide safe recreational boating in Berrien County.



Michigan DNR now offers two online boating safety classes and exam through and  Either program can be taken at your leisure. Students log on and take the Michigan course, pass it, then print a certificate. No need to contact the Sheriff's Office to take the proctored exam!

Who Needs to Take a Boater Safety Course?

Michigan conservation officers and Michigan county sheriffs encourage all persons operating boats in Michigan to enroll in a boating safety course.

Who May Operate a Boat

Those less than 12 years of age:

May operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horsepower (hp) legally without restrictions.

  • May operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp but no more than 35 hp legally only if they:
    • Have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat and...
    • Are directly supervised on board by a person at least 16 years of age.
  • May not operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp legally under any conditions.

Those born on or after July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally only if they have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat.

Those born before July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally without restrictions.

Who May Operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Those less than 14 years of age may not legally operate a PWC.

Those 14 and 15 years of age may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate and...

  • He or she is accompanied on board by his or her parent or legal guardian or by a person as least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian or...
  • He or she is operating or riding the PWC at a distance of not more than 100 feet from his or her parent or legal guardian or from a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian.

Those at least 16 years of age and born after December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate.

Those born on or before December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally without restrictions


If you have previously completed a Michigan Boater Safety Class and your original certificate has been lost or misplaced, you can request a duplicate by filling out a form at You may also apply for a duplicate certificate by mail or phone (517) 373-3292. There is no charge for this service.


Safety Alert!

United States Coast Guard Headquarters Inspections and Compliance Directorate, Washington, DC

July 20, 2016                      

STEM TO STERN, FOAM TO DUST......INSPECTING YOUR LIFEJACKETS IS A MUST! safety alert reminds all vessel operators to routinely inspect their lifejackets to ensure they are suitable for service.  Recently Coast Guard inspectors in Key  West, Florida discovered two vessels that had over 60 lifejackets that were required to be removed and destroyed. It was discovered that the unicellular foam buoyant material within the nylon outer shell had degraded significantly over time, broke apart, crumbled and in some instances was reduced to dust. The lifejackets were properly stored, kept dry, and not under direct sunlight; however, the location was very hot at times.

These particular lifejackets were the Type 1, 160RT model distributed by "The Safeguard Corporation" of Covington, Kentucky. They were manufactured in China and approximately nine years old. The distributor is no longer in business. Over the years, the Coast Guard has distributed a number of other safety alerts related to lifejackets and personal floatation devices (PFDs).

As a result of this recent discovery the Coast Guard strongly recommends that vessel owners and operators inspect their Type 1 unicellular plastic foam lifejackets for potential indications of failure or degradation, specifically:

  • Compression:  The lifejacket may be compressed from many years of stowage.
  • Loss of resiliency: The lifejacket is excessively hard, stiff or its foam is brittle. Normally after compressing the lifejacket to about half its initial thickness, the foam should expand to its original dimension in a short period of time.
  • Shrinkage:  A physical reduction in size may be indicated by "wrinkling" of the coating on vinyl dipped type or by a loose fitting shell on a fabric-covered lifejacket.
  • Manufacturer: While the potential for problems applies to all older PFDs, those manufactured by "The Safeguard Corporation" should be closely examined.

This Safety Alert was developed by the Coast Guard Headquarters Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis in conjunction with the Inspections Division of Coast Guard Sector Key West. 


919 Port Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085
(269) 983-7141
BCSD Niles Substation
1205 N. Front Street
Niles, MI 49120
(269) 684-5274
BCSD Watervliet Twp Substation
4959 M 140
Watervliet, MI 49098
(269) 463-5495
Deputies may be on patrol
Four Winds Substation
19279 Kinst Road
New Buffalo, MI 49117
(269) 756-9571 ext. 7603
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