Coast Guard to step up enforcement of passenger boats along Florida’s coast

A passenger boat is shown operating illegally in Alva, Florida, Dec. 6, 2014. The Coast Guard and partner agencies are stepping up enforcement of illegally operated passenger boats and reminds passengers to check safety requirements before paying for any boating services. U.S. Coast Guard photo

A passenger boat is shown operating illegally in Alva, Florida. U.S. Coast Guard photo

MIAMI —Coast Guard and partner agencies are stepping up enforcement of illegally operated passenger boats in the waters along Florida’s coast prior to and during the Labor Day weekend.

Over the past several months there has been an increase in the illegal and unsafe operation of passenger boats less than 100 tons, and many passengers are unaware of the safety requirements regulated by the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard reminds the public to check safety requirements before paying for any boating services.

“It’s important for people to know what is required of boat operators before they embark on a commercial voyage,” said Cmdr. Michael Capelli of the Coast Guard 7th District’s Inspections and Investigations Branch.  “All they have to do is ask their captain.”

Whenever a passenger pays to be on board a boat someone else is operating, the operator, “captain”, is required by law to have a merchant mariner’s license. If there are seven or more people on the boat, the boat is classified as a small passenger vessel and the boat is required to be inspected by the Coast Guard.

Captains of passenger boats are also required to have their license readily available to produce upon request, and, if operating an SPV, a certificate of inspection should be visually displayed.

If the Coast Guard comes across a passenger boat operating illegally and/or unsafely, the voyage will be terminated and passengers could lose any money used to pay for boating services.

Captains operating illegally are subject to civil penalties up to $35,000.

“You wouldn’t board a commercial flight or train being operated by someone who is unlicensed,” said Capelli. “People have the same right to be safe on a passenger boat.”

For more information on passenger vessel requirements, and to verify any captain’s credentials visit the National Maritime Center’s website at:  http://ift.tt/1hEqSmE

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