Anyone in the U.S. can buy a SAILBOAT and take off for wherever they'd like. Licenses would probably not do much to change the numbers of SAR's . Look at handguns. Licences ARE required for them, yet the US is seen as the murder-by-gun capital of the world.
The U.S. Coast Guard DOES does have lists of required equipment for vessels of different types and sizes. They are not equipped to stop every vessel to determine if they have each piece of required equipment, however. And EPIRBs are not a required item. If someone takes off for Tahiti short of sense or lifejackets, they can stop it if they see it. The scene is entirely different from Europe, however. Except for perhaps England, European countries have comparatively short coastlines. The state of Maine, by itself, has more than 10000 km of salt-water washing its jagged shores, and it is not the biggest state, nor the one with longest coast. There is no way to effectively control that much space with so many independent-thinking sailors. ...
Besides, isn't it usually the Australians (as in this thread) who are mounting the expensive SAR missions looking for dismasted or turtled Europeans most of the time? And the Europeans are the ones with licences!
Well that's not only the state of Maine that has a lot of water under its responsibility.
These are the waters where the Portuguese navy are responsible for SAR operations:
Last year, on these waters the Portuguese navy have done 662 SAR operations, saving 359 persons with a success tax over 95%.
I am not talking about controling. I am talking about responsibility. I am not talking about criminals, I am talking about normal people, sailors in particular.
If I have a car that has no insurance, I don't drive that car, not for fear of being controled (a very improbable event) but because I am responsible and I know that accidents happen. I know that if I have one with an insured car and criple or kill another person, even if it is not my fault, my life is going to the drain.
SAR operations are payed by the contributors and by the state. It is that way because the exponential increase of those operations due to recreational activities is a recent event. It is payed by states because they were meant for professional and commercial activities (fishing, transport) that have a meaningful pourpose and are of general interess.
Recreational boating increased hugely the number and cost of SAR operations to the point that most of them today are due to recreational boating. Today their costs are growing in a way that are unaffordable and injustifiable (for the contributor).
It is a question of time that not only boat insurance becomes mandatory but also the insurance companies become partly or totallay responsible for SAR costs in what concerns recreational boating. That's an aplication of the basic economical principle : The ones that use a service, should pay for it
When that becomes a reality, if you have an accident and your boat is not properly equipped and you don't have an apropriate licence, the insurance will not pay (and I don't mean your boat, but the multi-million boat that you manage to damage
). If you are the target of a SAR operation and after being rescued, your insurance finds out that you don't have a proper licence to be offshore or your boat is not equipped to do it, you are done. You will have to pay the SAR, and that normally costs a lot more than most boats.
You are going to think how the insurance will know that the boat is equipped for offshore or not. That's simple. Here and in most European countries the boats are classified not only regarding where they can sail (EC classification) but regarding the way they were equipped (for coastal, for offshore or unlimited). The boat classification is forever, but the way the boat is equipped and its condition is checked every 5 years. So they will know what kind of equippement the boat has and if it is valid or not.
I believe this is going to be an inevitablity, but it can be delayed if sailors become more responsible and that normally means rules and regulations.