Coast Guard enforces safety, illegal charter regulations in Destin, Florida

NEW ORLEANS — Coast Guard Sector Mobile partnered with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office to conduct safety boardings over the Labor Day Weekend.

Sector Mobile conducted 22 vessel boardings, 18 of which were found to be operating unsafely and illegally.

“It is every mariner’s responsibility to ensure the safe operation of their vessel on the water,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kathleen Sullivan, chief of enforcement, Sector Mobile. “Although we want mariners to have fun, recreational boating safety is a primary concern. If unsafe conditions are discovered, the Coast Guard and local law enforcement will take all appropriate actions to ensure the safety of boaters and the public.”

Two vessels were found to be operating as illegal charters. Of those, one operator was found boating under the influence and was arrested.

The following violations were noted during the boardings:

  • Violation of 46 C.F.R. 176.100 (a) for not having a valid Certificate of Inspection.
  • Violation of 46 C.F.R 15.515 (b) for not having a credentialed mariner in control while operating a small passenger vessel.
  • Violation of 46 C.F.R. 170.120 for failure to have a valid stability letter.
  • Violation of 46 C.F.R. 16.201 for failure to have a drug and alcohol program.

Eleven recreational vessel operators were found to be boating under the influence and arrested, and an additional three passengers were arrested for possession of narcotics. Three recreational vessel voyages were terminated due to insufficient safety equipment aboard.

The most common safety violations included operating without navigation lights at night, not enough life jackets or improper sized life jackets, and not having a fire extinguisher aboard or having an expired one.

Under federal law, owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face maximum civil penalties of more than $59,000.

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, ask to see a Coast Guard issued Certificate of Inspection. If the operator cannot produce appropriate credentials, passengers should not get on the boat.

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