Coast Guard Terminates Pontoon Vessel Voyage

AMPA, Fla. – The Coast Guard terminated a two-hour snorkeling tour for a 40-foot small-passenger vessel in Crystal River, Fla., on the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 12.

The Coast Guard took this action after receiving an anonymous report that the vessel had been operating without a required Certificate of Inspection, attesting to the vessel’s compliance with the minimum passenger-carrying safety requirements.

A Coast Guard investigator from Sector St. Petersburg, in St. Petersburg, Fla., arrived on scene at Pete’s Pier in Crystal River and witnessed the pontoon vessel Sea Venture get underway with 36 children and four adult passengers on board. The investigator immediately ordered the vessel to return to the dock. After questioning the crew and passengers, the investigator determined that the vessel was operating illegally.

A review of the Sea Venture’s history revealed that the Coast Guard deactivated the vessel’s Certificate of Inspection in 2004 because the owner failed to have the vessel undergo a required safety inspection.

“This is unfortunate for the 40 passengers who wanted to explore the majestic Crystal River, because this situation could have been easily avoided had Sea Venture’s owner or operator scheduled the required Coast Guard safety inspection,” said Lt. Robert Butts, Sector St. Petersburg’s Senior Investigating Officer.

To help ensure the safety of passengers, federal regulations require that passenger vessels undergo stringent safety inspections in order to receive a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection. These inspections ensure that the vessel’s seaworthiness, safety equipment, and crew competencies meet current safety standards. It is the responsibility of vessel owners or operators to schedule their periodic Coast Guard inspections. There are currently more than 20 vessels with valid Certificates of Inspection operating in the Crystal River area, meeting or exceeding the federal safety standards for vessels carrying passengers.

As a result of these actions, the owner of the Sea Venture is potentially liable for a civil penalty of $5,000 for each day it operated without a valid Certificate of Inspection, while the Master of the vessel faces Suspension and/or Revocation action against his Coast Guard-issued Merchant Mariner’s license.

Source: USCG D7 Public Affairs

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