Coast Guard halts illegal charter in Tampa Bay

A Coast Guard Saint Petersburg, Florida, personnel terminated the voyage of a 42-foot pleasure craft after discovering the vessel was operating a commercial passenger service, and was not in compliance with multiple regulations governing passenger vessels. U.S. Coast Guard photo

A Coast Guard Saint Petersburg, Florida, personnel terminated the voyage of a 42-foot pleasure craft after discovering the vessel was operating a commercial passenger service, and was not in compliance with multiple regulations governing passenger vessels. U.S. Coast Guard photo

SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Coast Guard terminated the voyage of a 42-foot pleasure craft with eight people aboard Sunday in Boca Ciega Bay.

Coast Guard investigating officers initially discovered the vessel advertising on social media and determined the vessel was not operating in accordance with regulations governing passenger vessels.

A Coast Guard Station Saint Petersburg 29-foot Response Boat-Small law enforcement boatcrew and investigating officers, boarded the pleasure craft and discovered the vessel was operating a commercial passenger service, and was not in compliance with multiple regulations governing passenger vessels. The following violations were noted during the boarding:

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

“The Coast Guard will continue to aggressively pursue vessel operators who place the lives of patrons at risk by not complying with Coast Guard passenger vessel regulations,” said Mr. Brian Knapp, Senior Investigating Officer at Coast Guard Sector Saint Petersburg. “We urge anyone paying for a trip on a passenger vessel to ask to see the Merchant Mariner Credential of the vessel operator to verify their captain is properly credentialed by the Coast Guard. If the operator cannot produce a Merchant Mariner Credential, don’t get on the boat.”

Owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face maximum civil penalties of over $50,000 for illegal passenger-for-hire operations. Some potential fines for illegally operating a charter vessel are:

  • Up to $18,477 for failure of an inspected vessel to be under the control of an individual with the appropriate Coast Guard license.
  • Up to $7,250 for failure of operators to be enrolled in a chemical testing program.
  • Up to $4,685for failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers.
  • Up to $15,995 for failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over 5 gross tons.
  • Up to $11,712 for failure to have been issued a valid Stability Letter prior to placing vessel in service with more than six passengers.


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