Coast Guard assesses civil penalty to illegal charter operator near Orange Beach, Ala.

Lady JusticeNEW ORLEANS — The Coast Guard assessed a $3,000 civil penalty on Nov. 5, 2020, to a mariner found to be operating an illegal charter vessel near Orange Beach, Alabama.

Orange Beach Police initially contacted Coast Guard Sector Mobile on May 23, 2020, with concerns of a suspected illegal passenger for hire operation in the area after seeing multiple advertisements on social media. The voyage was terminated, and the vessel was escorted back to port.

Following an investigation, the Coast Guard determined the operator of the vessel was in violation of 46 C.F.R. 15.605, not having a credentialed mariner in control of an uninspected passenger vessel, and violation of 46 C.F.R. 16.201, failure to comply with chemical testing requirements. The mariner was assessed a $3,000 civil penalty by a Coast Guard Hearing Officer.

Owners and operators of illegal passenger vessels can face maximum civil penalties of $60,000 or more for illegal passenger-for-hire-operations. Char

ers that violate a Captain of the Port Order can face over $95,000 in penalties. Some potential civil penalties for illegally operating a passenger vessel are:

  • Up to $7,846 for failure of operators to be enrolled in a chemical testing program.
    Up to $4,888 for failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers for hire.
  • Up to $16,687 for failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over 5 gross tons.
  • Up to $95,881 for every day of failure to comply with a Captain of the Port Order.

“Illegal charter boats place passengers in great danger,” said Capt. LaDonn Allen, commander of Coast Guard Sector Mobile. “They do not provide the same level of safety as a legal charter vessel. The safety of the boating public is our top priority and along with our partners, like the Orange Beach Police Department, we are dedicated to stopping this illegal activity and ensuring the appropriate penalties are applied.”

The Coast Guard urges anyone paying for a trip on a passenger vessel to verify that their captain has a safety plan and a Merchant Mariner Credential. For larger charter boats or those with more than six passengers, ask to see a Coast Guard issued Certificate of Inspection. If the operator cannot produce appropriate credentials, passengers should not get on the boat.

For additional recreational boating safety information, please visit www.uscgboating.org.

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