CLEARWATER, Fla. — A Coast Guard Station Cortez law enforcement crew terminated an illegal uninspected small passenger vessel-for-hire operating on Anna Maria Sound, Thursday.
The 22-foot boat was operating a ferry service to a short-term lodging sailboat with two people and three dogs as passengers. During the investigation, it was found that the operator was previously issued a Captain of the Port Order in June 2023 for operating without a Coast Guard- issued captain’s license, a regulatory requirement.
“Short-term lodging vessels on the water are not illegal,” said Chief of Investigations Brian Knapp, Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “If owners of short-term rentals provide transportation by way of a ferry service to and from the rental on the water, that is considered a passenger-for-hire operation, and the owner must be a credentialed mariner and follow the regulations for operating this type of service.”
The violations include:
- Violation of 46 CFR 15.605 - for failing to have an uninspected passenger vessel under the command and control of a credentialed mariner.
- Violation of 46 CFR 16.201 - for failure of the operator to be enrolled in a drug testing consortium.
- Violation of 33 CFR 160.105 - for failure to comply with a Captain of the Port Order.
“Anyone paying for a trip on a vessel should ask to see the merchant mariner credential of the boat operator to verify they are properly licensed by the Coast Guard to operate that vessel as the captain,” 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 merchant mariner credential.
- Up to $9,086 for failure of operators to be enrolled in a drug 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.
Anyone suspecting a vessel of violating the law is asked to report the alleged violation to Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg at 727-502-8720.
Join and follow Sector St. Petersburg's UPV & Bareboat Charter Outreach Facebook group for charter vessel education.
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