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Press Release | May 22, 2023

Coast Guard terminates illegal charter near Key Largo

Coast Guard Sector Key West

KEY WEST, Fla. — Coast Guard Sector Key West issued a Captain of the Port Order, Friday, requiring the operator of the pleasure craft to immediately cease commercial operations and comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

Coast Guard law enforcement officers from Station Islamorada terminated the voyage of an illegal passenger vessel on Jewfish Creek late Wednesday evening, near Key Largo, Florida.

The 21-foot pleasure craft was being operated around 10:30 p.m. as a water taxi for hire with two passengers between Jewfish Creek and the passengers’ short-term rental lodging, a cabin cruiser which was anchored in Manatee Bay.  

The operator of the pleasure craft was found intoxicated and cited with numerous safety violations which include the following:

  • 46 CFR 15.605 Failure to have an uninspected passenger vessel under the control of a properly licensed individual 
  • 46 CFR 16.201 Failure of a marine employer to comply with the requirements concerning chemical testing of personnel
  • 33 C.F.R. 175 Inadequate number of Personal Floatation Devices
  • 33 C.F.R. 175 Inadequate number of Visual Distress Signals
  • 33 C.F.R. 95 Operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or a dangerous drug
  • ​46 U.S.C. 2302 Operating a vessel in a negligent manner or interfering with the safe operation of a vessel

Owners and operators of illegal passenger vessels can face maximum civil penalties of $56,147 or more for illegal passenger for hire operations.  Violators of a Captain of the Port Order can face a penalty of over $111,031. 

“My top priority is to ensure vessels carrying passengers on our waterways are operating safely and in accordance with the law,” said Cmdr. Richard Armstrong, deputy sector commander at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West. “Vessels that do not adhere to federal regulations pose serious risks to the public, the environment, and the livelihoods of legitimate operators who do comply with the law. Partnering with federal and state agencies, we are working to eliminate unsafe vessels and unlicensed operators who do not comply with the law from operating on our shared waterways.” 

To report a potential illegal charter operating in the Florida Keys, please contact the Sector Key West Command Center at (305) 292-8727 or via email at May 20th marked the start of National Safe Boating Week; check out our official Sector Key West or Seventh Coast Guard District Facebook pages for important safety messages.