Coast Guard alerts public to be wary of illegal passenger vessels in the Northern California coastal area

Pacific Southwest Coast Guard NewsSAMOA, Calif. — Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Humboldt Bay has issued an advisory to all passengers who pay to take boat trips along the Northern California coast to be wary of illegal passenger vessel operators.

Coast Guard investigators have boarded multiple illegal passenger vessels and issued approximately $2,500 in fines for violations since May 1.

Passengers should ask to see the captain’s original Coast Guard license prior to leaving the dock. A Coast Guard issued mariner’s license demonstrates that the operator of a commercial vessel has met the minimum proficiency requirements for navigation and seamanship. Passengers should avoid commercial passenger vessels that do not have Coast Guard licensed captains.

Additionally, a passenger vessel carrying more than six paying individuals is required to be inspected by the Coast Guard. On these vessels a Certificate of Inspection issued by the Coast Guard must be displayed in an area accessible to the passengers.

Illegal passenger vessels pose a number of risks to the people aboard. The captain and crew may not have proper training and may not conduct required drills, exercises, or passenger safety briefings. Crew members of an illegal passenger vessel are not subject to pre-employment or random drug testing. These vessels may not carry proper life saving and firefighting equipment, or the equipment may be in poor condition. Many of the vessels operated illegally do not meet the minimum required federal standards for hull construction, stability, machinery, wiring, safety railings, and navigation equipment.

The Coast Guard has also reached out to vessel owners and operators in the area. Illegal passenger vessel operators are in direct violation of the United States Code and the Code of Federal Regulations. A penalty of up to $32,500 may be issued depending on the violation. If a captain is licensed and found to be operating a passenger vessel illegally, the Coast Guard will initiate action to suspend or revoke that license.

To verify a captain’s license or verify the inspected status of a vessel carrying more than six passengers; or to report an illegal charter operation, please call the Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Command Center at 415-399-3547.

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