Congestion on the waterways is a growing concern. Commercial operators must constantly be on the look out to avoid collisions with a variety of recreational craft and boats.
People who have little or no understanding of the rules of the road operate many of these boats. Some of these recreational craft are daily rentals that provide minimal safety instruction. The fact that there have been so few accidents involving commercial vessels is a tribute to the professionalism and skills of our mariners.
Unfortunately, however, the problem continues to grow and we are faced with increasing numbers of illegal charters in most U.S. ports. Many of these illegal charter operations are being marketed via the internet.
For the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA), it is one of its most important issues, with the association’s leaders and staff working closely with the Coast Guard to promote nationwide enforcement. This issue is of critical importance to all commercial operators. Illegal charter operations compromise safety, placing commercial mariners in harm’s way and potentially exposing the maritime industry to negative publicity.
But it appears that PVA’s efforts are starting to pay off. The Coast Guard has stepped up its enforcement efforts in several U.S. ports. In Chicago in August, the Coast Guard boarded 39 recreational vessels and terminated voyages of 22 vessels for allegedly conducting illegal charter operations on Lake Michigan and the Illinois River. In taking the action, the Coast Guard acknowledged that it had increased its “deterrent operations” as part of ongoing efforts to ensure passenger safety and to combat boat owners and operators who are illegally chartering or renting out their vessels. During that operation, the Coast Guard issued violation notices of more than $50,000. The Coast Guard has also taken steps to crack down on illegal charter operators in other U.S. ports including Hawaii and Los Angeles/Long Beach.
Many of these illegal charter vessels are not up to current safety standards, are not built to inspected vessels standards, and do not carry proper insurance for an inspected vessel in business to carry paying passengers. These are major deficiencies, especially when an accident occurs. I commend the Coast Guard for stepping up its enforcement of illegal charters and I encourage them to continue this effort in the name of safety.