Coast Guard halts illegal charters near Hula Bay
The U.S. Coast Guard says it has terminated an illegal charter Thursday near Hula Bay. A Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg 45-foot Response Boat-Medium law enforcement crew, terminated the voyage of a 26-foot uninspected passenger vessel with 12 passengers for hire.
During the course of the boarding, the boarding team determined the operator of the vessel was the holder of a Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential. In addition to civil penalties, the Coast Guard will initiate suspension and revocation against the merchant mariner’s credentials.
Uninspected passenger vessels are only permitted by Coast Guard regulations to carry six passengers for hire with a master who holds a Merchant Mariner Credential.
“The Coast Guard will continue to aggressively pursue vessel operators who needlessly 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 St. 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. Additionally, when chartering a boat with more than six passengers ask to see the Coast Guard’s Certificate of Inspection. If the operator cannot produce a Merchant Mariner Credential or a Certificate of Inspection, 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.