Coast Guard halts illegal charter in Tampa Bay

A Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg boarding team, along with Tampa Police Department Marine Unit, boarded a 48-foot boat that was operating as an illegal bareboat charter with 13 passengers for hire in Tampa Bay Dec. 4, 2021. Coast Guard officers terminated the charter’s voyage, and escorted the boat and passengers back to downtown Tampa. U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo.

A Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg boarding team, along with Tampa Police Department Marine Unit, boarded a 48-foot boat that was operating as an illegal bareboat charter with 13 passengers for hire in Tampa Bay Dec. 4, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo.

ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Coast Guard terminated an illegal charter in Tampa Bay, Saturday.

A Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg boarding team, along with Tampa Police Department Marine Unit, boarded a 48-foot boat that was operating as a bareboat charter with 13 passengers for hire.

After investigation, Coast Guard officers deemed the boat was operating as an illegal small passenger vessel, terminated the charter’s voyage, and escorted the boat and passengers back to downtown Tampa.

“Under a bareboat charter contract, the person who rents the charter must be given the option to hire any captain of their choosing, or operate the boat themselves,” said Brian Knapp, Senior Investigating Officer at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “If a bareboat renter is assigned a captain without any options, the bareboat charter designation no longer applies.

The violation includes:

  • Violation of 46 C.F.R. 176.100 (a) – failure to have a valid Certificate of Inspection.

“We urge bareboat patrons to review and become familiar with the bareboat charter regulations before paying for a charter,” said Knapp. “Anyone paying for a trip on a traditional passenger vessel should ask to see the Merchant Mariner Credential of the boat operator to verify their captain is properly licensed by the Coast Guard. If the captain can’t produce their license, don’t get on the boat.”

Anyone suspecting a vessel of violating the law, report the alleged violation to Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg at 727-502-8720.

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

Some potential fines for illegally operating a charter vessel are:

  • Up to $19,505 for failure of an inspected vessel to be under the control of an individual with the appropriate Coast Guard license.
  • Up to $7,939 for failure of operators to be enrolled in a chemical testing program.
  • Up to $4,946 for failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers.
  • Up to $16,844 for failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over 5 net tons.

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