With the summer recreational boating season in full swing, Coast Guard teams are carrying out enforcement operations against illegal charter boats on coastal and inland waters.
On 29’ response boat law enforcement crew terminated a voyage Sunday in Boca Ciega Bay on the Florida Gulf coast, following up the lead of Coast Guard investigators who discovered the operator of the 42’ houseboat was advertising passenger service on social media.
When the boat crew and investigators boarded the craft, they found it operating as a party boat, without meeting legal and regulatory requirements. The boarding team found multiple violations including not having a valid Certificate of Inspection, lacking a credentialed mariner in control while operating a small passenger vessel, and failure to have a drug and alcohol monitoring program for crew and a valid stability letter.
Under federal law the owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face civil penalties of more than $50,000 according to Coast Guard officials.
“The Coast Guard will continue to aggressively pursue vessel operators who place the lives of patrons at risk by not complying with Coast Guard passenger vessel regulations,” said Brian Knapp, a senior investigating officer at Coast Guard Sector Saint Petersburg.
“We urge anyone paying for a trip on a passenger vessel to ask to see the Merchant Mariner Credential of the vessel operator to verify their captain is properly credentialed by the Coast Guard. If the operator cannot produce a Merchant Mariner Credential, don’t get on the boat.”