Demarcation lines delineate those waters upon which mariners shall comply with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (72 COLREGS) and those waters upon which mariners shall comply with the Inland Navigation Rules (33 CFR 80.01). These lines are defined for each state, river, bay and harbor in 33 CFR 80. They are not related to the Boundary Lines. For instance, the waters of Puget Sound upon which Seattle lies, and Lake Union and Lake Washington to which access is through a lock, are "outside" the boundary lines and thus COLREGS apply. The definitions are also republished in Navigation Rules, a Coast Guard booklet available through the Government Printing Office and at nautical bookstores.

Boundary Lines delineate the application of a number of statutes regarding inspection, loadlines, manning and other miscellaneous regulatory requirements (46 CFR 7.1). Normally the Boundary Lines are drawn following the general trend of the seaward, highwater shorelines across the entrance of small bays, inlets and rivers. Exceptions are set forth in 46 CFR 7.

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