Coast Guard halts illegal charter near Tampa, Florida

A Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg 29-foot Response Boat – Small II boat crew approaches the 27-foot boat Aug. 31, 2020, to conduct a safety boarding. Federal law requires uninspected passenger vessels to carry only a maximum of six passengers for hire with a Merchant Mariner Credential. Bareboat charters, when properly applied, transfer complete ownership of a vessel to the charterer as a recreational vessel. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Villa Rodriguez)

A Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg boat crew conduct a safety boarding aboard a 27-foot boat Aug. 31, 2020. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Villa Rodriguez)

PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Coast Guard terminated an illegal charter near Tampa, Florida, Monday.

A Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg 29-foot Response Boat-Small II boat crew, along with Coast Guard Investigating Officers boarded a 27-foot boat that was operating as a presumed bareboat charter with eight passengers.

After investigation, Coast Guard officers determined the bareboat charter agreement was invalid and terminated the charter’s voyage. The vessel and passengers were escorted back to Gandy Boat Ramp.

“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, and the boat is deemed a small passenger vessel if more than six passengers. Which is exactly what happened in this case.”

The violations include:

  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. 170.120 for failure to have a valid stability letter.
  3. Violation of 33 C.F.R. 160.105 for failure to comply with Captain of the Port Order.
  4. Bareboat charters, when properly applied, transfer complete ownership of a vessel to the charterer as a recreational vessel.

“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 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.”

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

“The Coast Guard aggressively investigates reports of illegal passenger vessel activity,” said Capt. Matthew Thompson, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “We urge anyone suspecting a vessel of violating the law to report the alleged violation to Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg at 727-502-8720.”

Some potential fines for illegally operating a charter vessel are:

  • Up to $19,277 for failure of an inspected vessel to be under the control of an individual with the appropriate Coast Guard license.
  • Up to $4888 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 $12,219 for failure to have been issued a valid Stability Letter prior to placing vessel in service with more than six passengers for hire.
  • Up to $95,881 for every day of failure to comply with a Captain of the Port Order.

For more breaking news follow us on Twitter and Facebook. For recent photographs follow us on Flickr.


If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.

Related Posts

Comments are closed.