CLEARWATER, Fla. — A Coast Guard law enforcement team terminated an illegal charter operating in John’s Pass, Sunday.
A Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg boarding team, along with Treasure Island Police Department marine patrol unit officers, boarded a 23-foot boat that was allegedly operating as a bareboat charter with nine passengers.
After investigating, the law enforcement team deemed the boat was operating as an illegal small passenger vessel, terminated the charter’s voyage, and escorted the passengers and boat back to Treasure Island Marina.
“Under a bareboat charter contract, the person who rents the charter must be given the option to hire any captain of their choosing, or operate the boat themselves,” said Brian Knapp, senior investigating officer at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “If a bareboat renter is assigned a captain without any options, the bareboat charter designation no longer applies.”
The illegal charter violations include:
• 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) – for not having a credentialed mariner in control while operating a small passenger vessel.
• Violation of 46 C.F.R. 16.201 – for failure to have a drug and alcohol program.
“Anyone paying for a trip on a traditional passenger vessel should ask to see the Merchant Mariner Credential of the boat operator to verify their captain is properly licensed by the Coast Guard,” said Knapp. “If the captain can’t produce their license, don’t get on the boat.”
Owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face maximum civil penalties of over $60,000 for illegal passenger-for-hire operations. Charters that violate a Captain of the Port Order can face a maximum penalty of $111,031. Some potential fines for illegally operating a charter vessel are:
• Up to $22,324 for failure to operate a passenger vessel without a Coast Guard license.
• Up to $9,086 for failure of operators to be enrolled in a chemical testing program.
• Up to $5,661 for failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers.
• Up to $19,324 for failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over five net tons.
The Coast Guard conducts safety examinations to make certain vessels are in full compliance with all Federal and State boating laws to ensure safety of passengers and the boating community. To learn more about uninspected passenger vessels and bareboat charters, check out the Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg UPV and Bareboat Charter Outreach group. Anyone who suspects a vessel may be violating the law is asked to report the alleged violation to Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg at 727-502-8720.
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