Coast Guard encourages safe, legal passenger vessel operations

ST. LOUIS — The Coast Guard is encouraging passenger vessel operators to adhere to safety regulations for the upcoming boating season.

This summer, the Coast Guard will conduct operations to deter and stop illegal passenger vessel operators throughout Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River’s area of responsibility, including Lake of the Ozarks.

Legal passenger vessel operations fall into one of these three categories:

  1. Uninspected Passenger Vessel: Can carry up to six passengers and must be operated by a credentialed mariner.
  2. Small Passenger Vessel: Can carry more than six passengers, must hold a Coast Guard issued Certificate of Inspection, be inspected by the Coast Guard annually, and must be operated by a credentialed mariner.
  3. Bareboat Charter: Can carry up to twelve passengers and the operator must be hired by the customer.

Passenger vessel operators must adhere to safety regulations set forth by the Coast Guard. Violators are subject to civil penalties and/or a Captain of the Port Order. Failure to comply with the Captain of the Port Order may result in a civil penalty of up to $91,101 for each day of continued operation. A willful and knowing violation of this order constitutes a Class D felony, which may lead to jail time up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.

When the Coast Guard encounters a boat that is not in compliance with regulations, measures will be taken to bring the vessel and operator into compliance. Those measures may include education, verbal or written warnings, civil penalties, vessel voyage termination, arrest or vessel seizure.

When reserving boats, prospective passengers should ask the operator in advance for proof the vessel and captain are compliant with Coast Guard requirements. Availability on a website is not a guarantee of regulatory compliance.

“We want everyone to have a safe experience on the water,” said Capt. Scott Stoermer, commander of Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River. “Passengers have the right to know they are paying for a safe voyage before handing over their money. Vessels that operate with a captain who is not licensed put passengers and surrounding boats in danger.”

Anyone who wishes to verify a captain’s license, check status of a vessel, or report a vessel suspected of operating illegally can contact Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River’s Command Center at (314) 269-2463.

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