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Press Release | May 5, 2024

Coast Guard terminates voyage of an illegal charter vessel in Lake Havasu, Arizona

District 11

Lake Havasu, ARIZ. – The Coast Guard terminated an illegal charter of the 25-foot Pontoon, in the vicinity of Thompson Bay in Lake Havasu, Ariz., April 27, 2024.

A Coast Guard boarding team conducted a safety boarding of the vessel with 10 people aboard. There were nine passengers for hire and one non-credentialed crew member.

The boarding team determined the vessel was operating as an illegal small passenger vessel and cited for the following violations:

  • 46 C.F.R. 176.100(a) – not having a valid Certificate of Inspection.
  • 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.

It is important to note that before launching your own passenger for hire operation, the following requirements must be followed:

  • The captain must hold the appropriate U.S. Coast Guard license.
  • The captain and crew must be enrolled in a drug and alcohol program.

If carrying more than six passengers, at least one for hire, then the vessel must also have a valid Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection.

Additionally, if businesses are conducting bareboat charter rentals, then:

  • A maximum of 12 passengers plus the charterer are allowed on the vessel, not including crew.
  • The vessel can be crewed so long as the captain and the crew are not provided by or paid through the original rental company agreement.
  • The company may provide a list of suggested captains, but the charterer has the right to go outside that list and choose their own captain.
  • The vessel’s registered owner may not be onboard in any capacity while the vessel is rented (chartered) by a charterer.

“The Coast Guard will continue to pursue vessel operators who place the lives of patrons at risk by not complying with Coast Guard passenger vessel regulations,” said Cmdr. Jamie Koppi, Prevention Department Head at Coast Guard Sector San Diego. “Before boarding a vessel, I urge people to ask for the captain’s credentials and safety plan. 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 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 failure to operate a passenger vessel without a valid Coast Guard license (46 U.S.C. 8101 (g)).
  • Up to $19,324 for operating a coastwise trade without appropriate Certificate of Documentation endorsement (46 U.S.C. 12151 (a)(1)).
  • Up to $9,086 for failure to have a random drug testing program (46 U.S.C. 2115).

Violation of a Captain of the Port Order is a Class D felony which is punishable by up to six years in prison (18 U.S.C. 3581), and 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 be up to $111,031 (46 U.S.C. 70036 (a)).

For additional recreational boating safety information, 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

Illegal charter operations can be reported to the Coast Guard Sector San Diego Joint Harbor Operations Center (JHOC) at (619) 278-7033 or to the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) via the CGIS Tips app.