With COVID-19 restrictions in place, it seems likely that not too many people are thinking of taking a boat ride any time soon. Be that as it may, Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River is warning the public to avoid unlawful passenger vessel operations.
It says that there are continued reports of illegal commercial vessel services including water taxis, excursion vessels and transportation services reserved via on-line applications in popular tourist locations.
Unlawful operations include but are not limited to:
Charter services that carry “passenger(s) for hire” without a valid Coast Guard issued merchant mariner’s credential suitable for the vessel’s service. “Passenger for hire” is defined as someone who cannot participate in the voyage without paying or contributing something.
Bareboat charter services that provide a vessel with a crew or carry more than 12 passengers onboard. A “bareboat charter” is defined as paying only for the use of a vessel.
Charter services that carry more than six passengers, at least one of which are for hire, and are not certificated by the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard continues to address potential illegal chartering operations in an effort to bring them into compliance with applicable Federal rules and regulations. Charter services that are found to be operating illegally can be subject to civil or criminal penalties.
The basic laws and definitions governing charter services can be found in Title 46 United States Code 2101 and Title 46 Code of Federal Regulations 175.400.
“Safety is our primary concern,” said Lt. James Long, chief of emergency management and force readiness, Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River. “Passengers that ride any charter service are cautioned to be on the lookout for unlawful practices. In many cases, operations outside of the law undermine safety and expose passengers to undue risk. Passengers could face unnecessary danger on a vessel that has not been inspected by the Coast Guard or is operated by someone without a Coast Guard issued credential.”
Any suspected violations can be reported to Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River’s 24-hour Command Center at (314) 269-2332.