Charter Boat Trip Sponsors Need to Be Aware of Regulations

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Coast Guard would like to inform hotel and business owners that sponsor charter-vessel businesses, that they should ensure that vessels are operated by properly-licensed operators. Charter vessels should be outfitted with proper lifesaving and firefighting equipment an emergency checklist, and passengers must receive a safety orientation upon departure from the dock.

The Coast Guard disrupted an illegal dinner-cruise business operating out of a hotel in Clearwater, Fla., May 1. After receiving an anonymous tip, Coast Guard boarding officers from Coast Guard Station Sand Key, in Clearwater, boarded the 32-foot sailing vessel Almost Heaven III.

A Coast Guard investigation determined that Gulfside Adventures, a company that conducts dinner cruises in Clearwater Beach, operated their 32-foot sailing vessel Almost Heaven III with serious safety violations. The investigation resulted in issuing the owner and operator of the vessel a citation.

Almost Heaven III’s operator has been charged with five offenses including taking paying passengers on a dinner cruise without a valid U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s license, failing to enroll in a chemical testing program, negligent operations, and not providing passengers with emergency instructions or a safety orientation prior to getting underway. For these violations, the Coast Guard issued a $3,200 citation.

Coast Guard regulations require each vessel transporting passengers to carry additional safety equipment and to have a licensed operator, holding a valid a Merchant Mariner’s License. To receive a Merchant Mariner’s License, a person must demonstrate fundamental seamanship knowledge and skills through tests and experience, undergo a criminal background check, pass a health exam, and participate in a drug and alcohol testing program.

The Coast Guard, along with local law-enforcement agencies, actively investigates all reports of illegal passenger vessel operations, imposing civil or criminal penalties when required. In this case, an illegal and unsafe passenger-vessel operation was stopped and lives were protected.

Hotels, or any other business, that sponsor charter vessel businesses should ensure that vessels are operated by properly-licensed operators who are enrolled in a chemical-testing program. Furthermore, vessels must be outfitted with proper lifesaving and firefighting equipment, an emergency checklist, and passengers must receive a safety orientation upon departure from the dock.

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