Coast Guard to Aggresively Target Illegal Charter Boats at 2009 Chincoteague Pony Swim

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Tourists attending the Chincoteague Pony Swim on July 29 should avoid chartering boats without licensed captains inspected by the Coast Guard.

Sector Hampton Roads personnel will be aggressively enforcing federal regulations intended to ensure the safety of the public during this event. Boat crews will board boats and cite charters that do not have licensed captains or are carrying more than six passengers without the required Certificate of Inspection.

The Coast Guard advises tourists to ask the boat’s captain to show his or her original Coast Guard license. The boat is required to be inspected by the Coast Guard if it carries more than six passengers and the certificate should be displayed in an area accessible to passengers.

Illegal charter boats pose a number of risks:

  • They may not carry proper lifesaving and firefighting equipment
  • Very few illegal vessels meet the minimum required federal standards for machinery, hull construction, wiring, stability, safety railings, or navigation equipment
  • The crews of illegal charter boats are not subject to pre-employment or random drug testing

Charter boats are not required by federal law to carry insurance. Passengers should ask whether the boat is insured as a passenger vessel. If not, passengers may be unable to pursue a claim if they are injured while aboard.

The Coast Guard is reaching out to the owners of vessels that are advertising trips for the pony swim to ensure they operate legally. If an owner operates illegally, the Coast Guard will seek maximum penalties. Vessel owners and operators can receive civil penalties up to $1,100 for a first violation offense. The Coast Guard can initiate action seeking to suspend or revoke the license of a Coast Guard licensed captain who carries more than six passengers.

Boating safety tips:

  • Always wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket, and it is required for children under 13
  • Be aware of weather and water conditions
  • Never boat or paddle alone
  • File a float plan to let others know where you are going and your expected return time

“When leaving the pony swim area, be aware of kayaks, inflatable rafts, other boating traffic and people viewing from the water,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Gregg Pescuma, operations officer for Station Chincoteague. “The Coast Guard and Virginia Marine Police will be enforcing a slow speed zone.”

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