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Press Release | Oct. 4, 2023

Coast Guard terminates voyage of an illegal charter vessel in San Diego

District 11

SAN DIEGO — Coast Guard terminates an illegal charter operation in the La Jolla State marine reserve protected area in San Diego, on Sept. 21, 2023.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a boarding of the state registered 20-foot pleasure craft, Lucky Duck, which had 6 people aboard (5 passengers for hire and 1 child). Charges were filed against the operator for violating state laws.

The Coast Guard determined that the vessel was operating as an illegal uninspected passenger vessel, in violation of the following federal regulations:

- 46 C.F.R. 15.401 (a) - failure to employ an appropriately credentialed mariner.

- 46 C.F.R. 16.201 - failure to have a drug and alcohol program.

"The Coast Guard will continue to pursue vessel operators who put the lives of patrons at risk by disregarding Coast Guard passenger vessel regulations,” said Cmdr. Jamie Koppi, a Coast Guard Sector San Diego prevention.

Before boarding a vessel, I urge people to ask for the captain's credentials and safety plan, said Koppi. Don't jeopardize your life and the lives of your loved ones by entrusting inexperienced operators.

Owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face civil penalties for their unlawful operations. 

Some potential civil penalties include:

- Up to $5,661 for not having a valid Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers (46 U.S.C. 3318 (j)).

- Up to $22,324 for operating a passenger vessel without a valid Coast Guard license (46 U.S.C. 8101 (g)).

- Up to $19,324 for engaging in coastwise trade without appropriate Certificate of Documentation endorsement (46 U.S.C. 12151 (a)(1)).

- Up to $9,086 for failure to implement a random drug testing program (46 U.S.C. 2115).

Violation of the captain of the port order is a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison (18 U.S.C. 3581), and a criminal fine of up to $250,000 for an individual and $500,000 for an organization (18 U.S.C. 3571). Civil penalties for violating a captain of the port order can reach up to $111,031 (46 U.S.C. 70036 (a).

For additional information on recreational boating safety, please visit the Coast Guard's boating safety division at

Individuals with questions regarding passenger-for-hire regulations can contact Coast Guard Sector San Diego's Investigations Division at

Report any illegal charter operations to the Coast Guard Sector San Diego Joint Harbor Operations Center (JHOC) at (619) 278-7033 or through the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Tips app.