Coast Guard halts illegal charters near Hula Bay

A Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg 45-foot Response Boat-Medium—Law Enforcement boat crew conducted the boarding of a 26-foot pleasure craft with 12 people aboard operating as an illegal charter March 12, 2020 near Hula Bay, Florida. The vessel's voyage was terminated for the following violations; Violation of 46 C.F.R. 176.100 (a) for not having a valid Certificate of Inspection, Violation of 46 C.F.R. 16.201 for failure to have a drug and alcohol program, Violation of 46 C.F.R. 170.120 for failure to have a valid stability letter. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station St. Petersburg)

A Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg Law Enforcement boat crew conducted the boarding of a 26-foot pleasure craft with 12 people aboard operating as an illegal charter March 12, 2020 near Hula Bay, Florida. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station St. Petersburg)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Coast Guard terminated an illegal charter Thursday near Hula Bay.

A Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg 45-foot Response Boat-Medium law enforcement crew, terminated the voyage of a 26-foot uninspected passenger vessel with 12 passengers for hire.

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. 16.201 for failure to have a drug and alcohol program.
  3. Violation of 46 C.F.R. 170.120 for failure to have a valid stability letter.

During the course of the boarding, the boarding team determined the operator of the vessel was
the holder of a Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential. In addition to civil penalties, the
Coast Guard will initiate suspension and revocation against the merchant mariner’s credentials.

Uninspected passenger vessels are only permitted by Coast Guard regulations to carry six
passengers for hire with a master who holds a Merchant Mariner Credential.

“The Coast Guard will continue to aggressively pursue vessel operators who needlessly 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 St. 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. Additionally, when chartering a boat with more than six passengers ask to see the Coast Guard’s Certificate of Inspection. If the operator cannot produce a Merchant Mariner Credential or a Certificate of Inspection, 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 $4,685 for 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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