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 | May 1, 2024

Coast Guard urges boating safety awareness and cautions public on illegitimate boating operations

HONOLULU – The U.S. Coast Guard urges mariners to use best safe boating practices on the water heading into the National Safe Boating Month of May and cautions the public that unlicensed vessel charters are both illegal and potentially unsafe, May 1, 2024.  –  

Hawaii’s consistently favorable conditions allow year-round engagement in recreational beach and maritime activities, distinguishing it from other regions subject to seasonal changes. As activities on the water increase throughout the summer, through recreational boating and boat tours, it is important that visitors and residents are informed of safe boating practices and legitimate boating operations.

“While our priority at Sector Honolulu is passenger safety, we struggle to identify illegal operators and oftentimes rely on the public to report these unsafe operations,” said Lt. Cmdr. Lisa Fanning, chief of investigations for U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. “Throughout the Hawaiian Islands, we’ve been working towards combating these inherently risky illegal charter operations. Our most recent investigations and safety boardings, indicate many of these vessels are operated without a licensed master, lack minimal lifesaving equipment, training, and the vessel is often found to be in substandard condition.”

Boating and water recreation safety is a top priority to the City and Counties of Honolulu, Maui, Hawaii, Kauai and to the Coast Guard.  Illegal charter operations create an unnecessary risk to the public-at-large, bypassing the minimum regulatory “safety net” mandated by U.S. law and regulation.

The Coast Guard wants to educate operators who may not be familiar with federal regulations for commercial passenger operations.  Understanding and complying with these regulations will help avoid civil and/or criminal penalties related to non-compliance and ensures the safety of all waterway users.  Failure to comply with passenger vessel requirements can result in civil penalties up to $5,000 per operation per day for the owner or operator.

The Coast Guard reminds boaters to follow the following principles to ensure safe experiences on the water:

  • Is the vessel operated by a credentialed master?
  • Does the vessel have the appropriate safety equipment onboard (e.g., appropriate size and number of lifejackets, firefighting equipment, and working navigation lights)?

To verify the master is properly credentialed or to report a potential illegal charter, contact the Coast Guard Sector Honolulu Command Center at (808) 842-2600.

For more information regarding passenger vessel operations or charter regulations, please contact Sector Honolulu Prevention Department (808) 522-8264.