An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Press Release | Aug. 23, 2023

Media availability: Coast Guard conducts illegal passenger vessel enforcement operation, finds safety violations

Editor’s note: Media interested in an interview regarding the enforcement operation or details on illegal charters must RSVP to Lt. Jessica Baek at (757) 903-1842 by 2 p.m. August 23, 2023.

WHO: Lt. George Bannon, Coast Guard Sector Virginia enforcement chief and Lt. Alex Gagne, Coast Guard Sector Virginia investigations chief

WHAT: Discuss unsafe boating practices

WHEN: August 25, 2023, 11 a.m.

WHERE: Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, 4000 Coast Guard Blvd. Portsmouth, Virginia

NORFOLK, Va. — The Coast Guard conducted vessel boardings to address unsafe and illegal boating practices aboard commercial passenger vessels, recreational vessels, and rental vessels Aug. 11-13, 2023, near Broad Bay, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The goal was to identify rental vessels under bareboat charter agreements operating as illegal passenger vessels. Illegal passenger vessels often lack important safety equipment and do not meet regulatory requirements.

“Recently, we’ve seen an increase in ‘bareboat charters,’ where a person pays to rent a boat, and often times will hire a captain separately,” said Lt. Alex Gagne, an investigating officer at Coast Guard Sector Virginia.

Customers renting a vessel under a bareboat charter agreement are cautioned that they should be aware of the limitations of that agreement to avoid the accidental use of the vessel as an illegal passenger vessel.

“Bareboat charter and boat rental agreements that require the use of a licensed captain can give the impression that the renter is not liable for the safety of the vessel,” said Gagne. “When entering these agreements, the renter assumes responsibility for the vessel and ensuring that it meets all safety and regulatory requirements.”

Additionally, if the person renting a boat requires any other passenger to pay to board the vessel, the vessel then becomes a passenger vessel which is subject to additional safety equipment standards and regulatory requirements such as requiring a credentialed operator who is enrolled in a certified Department of Transportation drug testing program.

“Our mission is to ensure people are safe on the water, which includes understanding the safety and regulatory requirements before engaging in passenger-for-hire services,” said Lt. Joe Bannon, an enforcement officer at Coast Guard Sector Virginia. “Being on an illegal passenger vessel exposes passengers to serious risks. Customers should exercise caution and ask questions to ensure the captain is properly licensed and the vessel is outfitted with the necessary safety equipment.”

The Coast Guard conducts periodic, unannounced boardings of vessels with the goal of ensuring the safety of the boating public and full compliance with the minimum safety and regulatory standards required by law.

The Coast Guard takes all reports of illegal charters seriously and will work closely with local, state, and federal partners to investigate all reports.

During the operation Virginia-based Coast Guard boarding teams conducted seven boardings, discovering seven violations and terminated the voyages of two recreational vessels due to safety violations. Some of the violations included:

  • 46 CFR 25.25-2: Failure to have correct type of life jackets onboard.
  • 46 CFR 25.30.20 (B) (1): Failure to have correct number of serviced portable fire extinguishers onboard.
  • 33 CFR 175.13.15: Failure to have correct number of life jackets for personnel aboard.

To report potential illegal passenger vessels, please contact the Sector Virginia Command Center at 757-483-8567 or through CGIS Tips: