U.S. Coast Guard Fifth District, Annapolis, Md., reports that on July 21 Coast Guard Investigative Service special agents arrested the operator of a charter boat called Fishing Lady for violating a U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port Order issued pursuant to the Ports and Waterways Safety Act.
The Coast Guard says that the operator, Terrance Dale Roy, also failed to properly report a hazardous condition as required by regulations and operated his boat in a grossly negligent manner.
Roy was charged with two felonies and one misdemeanor. If convicted, he could face up to six years in prison for each of the felony charges and up to one year in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, for the misdemeanor charge, as well as other criminal sanctions.
Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.
The Coast Guard issued Roy a Captain of the Port Order in May 2021 after the Fishing Lady sank at a pier in Kent Narrows. The order prohibited the vessel from operating commercially until the vessel’s seaworthiness was determined by Coast Guard professionals. Without making the repairs necessary to have the order removed and ensure the safety of the vessel, says the Coast Guard, Roy proceeded to take thirty-four paying passengers out over Father’s Day weekend.
Due to the substandard condition of the vessel, it began taking on water which was unable to be removed using the vessel’s bilge pumps. Marine units from Grasonville and Kent Island volunteer fire departments arrived on scene and safely disembarked all the passengers on board.
Further investigation revealed potential additional violations of federal laws and regulations concerning the substandard conditions of the vessel, proper documentation for commercial service and operation without a license.
“Illegal passenger vessel operators pose a significant danger to the public and adversely impact legitimate operators who comply with federal safety requirements,” said Cmdr. Baxter Smoak, chief of prevention for Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region. “The Captain of the Port Orders issued to the Fishing Lady were intended to protect the public. Before you step off the pier and onto a boat as a paying passenger, you should ask to see the captain’s license and, if they carry more than six passengers, request to see their Certificate of Inspection. By departing the pier without correcting the grossly unsafe conditions, the operator put thirty-four passenger lives in grave danger.”
Vessel operators who willfully and knowingly violate of Captain of the Port orders and Coast Guard vessel reporting requirements can face criminal prosecution. Owners and operators of illegal passenger-for-hire operations can also face a multitude of civil penalties, including individual violations ranging from $2,500 to over $95,000.
The Coast Guard aggressively pursues illegal passenger vessel operations. Without properly trained and licensed crew and without meeting the required vessel inspection standards, passengers can be unknowingly placing themselves at risk in these illegal passenger vessels.