AUGUST 26, 2015 — The U.S. Coast Guard and partner agencies are stepping up enforcement efforts against illegally operated passenger boats in the waters along Florida's coast prior to and during the Labor Day weekend.
According to the Coast Guard's 7th District, over the past several months there has been an increase in the illegal and unsafe operation of passenger boats less than 100 tons, and many passengers are unaware of the safety requirements regulated by the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard is reminding the public to check safety requirements before paying for any boating services."It's important for people to know what is required of boat operators before they embark on a commercial voyage," said Cmdr. Michael Capelli of the Coast Guard 7th District's Inspections and Investigations Branch. "All they have to do is ask their captain."
Whenever a passenger pays to be on board a boat someone else is operating, the operator, or "captain," is required by law to have a merchant mariner's license. If there are seven or more people on the boat, the boat is classified as a small passenger vessel (SPV) and the boat is required to be inspected by the Coast Guard.
Captains of passenger boats are also required to have their license readily available to produce upon request, and, if operating an SPV, a certificate of inspection should be visually displayed. This includes captains using smart phone apps to provide boating services.
If the Coast Guard comes across a passenger boat operating illegally and/or unsafely, the voyage will be terminated.
Captains operating illegally are subject to civil penalties up to $35,000.
"You wouldn't board a commercial flight or train operated by someone who is not properly licensed," said Cmdr Capelli. "People have the same right to be safe on a passenger boat."