Coast Guard halts illegal boat charter

Written by Nick Blenkey
USCG stops illegal charter

A boarding team from Coast Guard Station Sand Key halted an illegal passenger-for-hire operation with seven passengers and one non-credentialed mariner, May 16, 2021 in the vicinity of Seminole Boat Ramp. The Coast Guard team on a 24-foot shallow water boat boarded the 18-foot vessel and determined it was being operated illegally as a Small Passenger Vessel. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

A U.S. Coast Guard Station Sand Key law enforcement team terminated an illegal charter Sunday, near Seminole Boat Ramp, Clearwater, Fla..

The 18-foot vessel had seven passengers and one non-credentialed mariner operating as an illegal passenger-for-hire small passenger vessel.

The following citations were issued:

  • Violation of 46 C.F.R. 176.100(a) – failure to have a valid Certificate of Inspection.
  • Violation of 46 C.F.R. 15.515(b) – failure to have a credentialed mariner in control while operating a small passenger vessel.
  • Violation of 46 C.F.R. 16.201 – failure to have a drug and alcohol program.

“Illegal passenger-for-hire operations can be extremely dangerous,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick McIntosh, Station Sand Key boarding team member. “You are putting your life in the captain’s hands any time you get underway.”

The Coast Guard urges passengers to verify their captain has a safety plan and a Coast Guard license. For larger charter boats or those with more than six passengers, ask to see a Coast Guard issued Certificate of Inspection. If the operator cannot produce appropriate credentials, passengers should not get on the boat.

Owners and operators of illegal passenger vessels can face maximum civil penalties of $60,000 or more for illegal passenger-for-hire-operations. Owners and operators that violate a Captain of the Port Order can face over $95,000 in penalties.

Some potential civil penalties for illegally operating a passenger vessel are:

  • Up to $7,846 for failure of operators to be enrolled in a chemical testing program.
  • Up to $4,888 for failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers for hire.
  • Up to $16,687 for failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over 5 net tons.
  • Up to $95,881 for every day of failure to comply with a Captain of the Port Order.
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