Posted by: towmasters | April 1, 2010

Work Knives For Mariners: Are They Legal?

In the last year I’ve seen the subject of knives come up several times on the gCaptain forums, the discussion usually centering on the legalities of the possession and/or carrying of work knives by mariners aboard their vessels or while traveling between their homes and wherever their work takes them. This is, I would hope, a subject that everyone understands is very complicated, primarily because our work may entail traveling between and through the jurisdictions of numerous states or provinces and, in some cases, nations. Definitions of what constitutes a “work” knife can also be very broad as well. When is it a work knife and when is it a deadly or dangerous weapon? Sometimes a knife can be  either, or, or both at the same time. It all depends on where you are, and the specific behavior of the person possessing the knife will often have a lot to do with it. It may well be perfectly okay to walk around in a public place with a 10-inch fillet knife in a scabbard on your belt, but if you pull out a pocket knife with a 2-inch blade and wave it near someone’s face you will likely have problems. The company you work for, or one that you’re sub-contracted to, may also have their own policies. is the best on-line information source I could locate, and if you want a permanent and full-featured reference then Knife Laws of the 50 States: A Guide for the Law-Abiding Traveler, by attorney David Wong, is the book for you. Another good source is To check if a particular type or size of knife is legal in a given state click here. As you can imagine, there’s a great deal of variability between the different states on blade length, type of blade, and open vs. concealed carry. Some states have no or few restrictions, some have what arguably seem to be reasonable rules (attempting to balance public safety against the legitimate rights and needs of citizens to lawfully carry and use knives), and some are ridiculously restrictive for no apparent reason at all. So it goes in these United States of America (and our unincorporated territories)…..and there is apparently an enormous amount of local municipal, town and county laws that are usually more restrictive than their respective state laws are, so beware. When in doubt, make it a habit to call the local police or sheriff’s office and inquire about whatever other laws may exist besides those of the state.

For federal law north of the border Refer to Part III – Firearms & Other Weapons of the Canada Criminal Code. As with the U.S.A., Canadian federal law doesn’t really say much pertaining to knives beyond prohibiting switchblades and gravity knives, but there are ten provinces and three territories that may each have their own laws, plus all the various local stuff. Check with the local constabulary, or with the Ontario Provincial Police, the Sûreté du Québec (Québec Provincial Police) and the RCMP for specific information.

Everyone presumably knows by now that, since shortly after 9/11, you’re no longer allowed to carry a knife (other than a plastic or round-bladed butter knife) onto a commercial passenger flight. For further detailed information see the Transportation Security Administration’s list of Prohibited Items For Travelers. If you need to bring a knife along you’ll simply have to stow it in checked luggage. I’d flown around the world numerous times to meet various vessels prior to 9-11 and had always naturally presumed it to be illegal to bring any knife or edged tool as a carry-on item, so they always went in the checked seabag, and why it took something as extreme as the 9/11 hijackings to change this I’ll never know. I was positively stunned when I found out that they walked on, legally, with box cutters in their possession, which were then used to murder the pilots and takeover the aircraft. I don’t think it unfair to say that somebody should have seen that coming a long way off. Anyway, now it’s shampoo bottles, gel shoe insoles and snow globes we have to worry about. Ahh, the romance of flying!



  1. This did not provide any useful information. All this is doing is to scare mariners into buying what the linked information is selling.

  2. If you found no useful information it’s because you didn’t read the information that was available and/or were too lazy to do a little further research on your own. Yes, the book costs money, as books should. Yes, if you are incapable of understanding the state laws as written the guy would charge you $10 to clarify it for you. Big deal. Most of what you would ever need to know on a state law level is there and the local laws you just have to make a phone call or two.

  3. […] more » […]

  4. You provided no useful information outside of the title of the book. i just totally wasted my time reading this article.

  5. You are, apparently, clueless…..

  6. I would have hoped to see more of a discussion on how ridiculous it is to outlaw a tool necessary to perform the job you are supposed to be doing. There is a saying, “use the right tool for the job”. Knives are obviously the right tool for certain jobs and some of those jobs are on our ships. The companies in the Gulf of Mexico have decided in thier stupidity to outlaw knives onboard since ‘someone may get hurt”. Well boo hoo! I am sick and tired of this attitude that everyone must live by the standards of the very worst among us. Its time we stood up and said enough! The whole airline thing with no liquids, etc is another perfect example. If everyone else on the plane on 9/11 was not in complete and utter shock over the fact that the terrorists changed the hijack situation and for the 1st time in history were not out to bargain away the hostages but instead always planned to kill everyone, then they would have overpowered the terrorists just like they did on the last plane. No terrorists would ever be so stupid again to try that trick. Everyone on board would jump them. Of course, I think even the little old lady would feel better doing that with her knitting needles in her hands. So get rid of those stupid rules and give us back our knitting needles, knives, water bottles, etc! There are a lot of people out here in the world that are not afraid- get over it!

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