USCG halts illegal charter in Sarasota Bay
The U.S. Coast Guard says it has terminated the voyage of a 24-foot uninspected passenger vessel Thursday in Sarasota Bay, Florida.
The vessel was found with four passengers for hire aboard.
A Coast Guard Station Cortez’ 29-foot Response Boat-Small law enforcement boat crew and an investigating officer boarded the vessel. During the course of the boarding, it was determined the vessel was operating a commercial passenger service.
The vessel was not in compliance with multiple regulations governing uninspected passenger vessels, including the operator not being a Coast Guard credentialed mariner.
The following violations were noted during the boarding:
Violation of 46 C.F.R. 15.605 for not having a credentialed mariner in control of an uninspected passenger vessel.
Violation of 46 C.F.R. 16.201 for failure to have a drug and alcohol program.
“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 Mr. Brian Knapp, 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.”
Owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face maximum civil penalties of over $50,000 for illegal passenger-for-hire operations. Some potential fines for illegally operating a charter vessel are:
Up to $18,477 for failure of an inspected vessel to be under the control of an individual with the appropriate Coast Guard license.
Up to $7,250 for failure of operators to be enrolled in a chemical testing program.
Up to $4,685 for failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers.
Up to $15,995 for failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over 5 gross tons.
Up to $11,712 for failure to have been issued a valid Stability Letter prior to placing vessel in service with more than six passengers.