Coast Guard halts illegal charters on Lake Washington, Lake Union

The crew of the USCGC Sea Lion (WPB 87352), an 87-foot coastal patrol boat homeported in Bellingham, Washington, conducts vessel safety inspections, boating under the influence enforcement, and counter illegal charter operations on Lake Washington, Washington,, Sept. 6, 2020. The Coast Guard terminated the voyages of three illegally chartered pleasure crafts over Labor Day weekend. U.S. Coast Guard Photo.

The crew of the USCGC Sea Lion, an 87-foot coastal patrol boat homeported in Bellingham, Washington, conducts vessel safety inspections, boating under the influence enforcement, and counter illegal charter operations on Lake Washington, Washington,, Sept. 6, 2020.  U.S. Coast Guard Photo.

SEATTLE — The Coast Guard terminated the voyages of three illegally chartered pleasure crafts over Labor Day weekend in Lake Washington and Lake Union.

Crew members from Coast Guard Station Seattle, Coast Guard Cutters Sea Lion and Bailey T. Barco, along with Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, patrolled the lakes and San Juan Islands throughout the weekend conducting vessel safety inspections, boating under the influence enforcement, and counter illegal charter operations.

While on patrol, a Coast Guard Station Seattle 29-foot Response Boat–Small crew observed one vessel transiting out of a local marina and into the navigable channel of Lake Union. The crew aboard the RB– S dispatched a law enforcement team to conduct a boarding and discovered the following violations:

  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 46 C.F.R. 15.515(b) for not having a credentialed mariner in control while operating a small passenger vessel.
  4. Violation of 46 C.F.R. 16.201 for failure to have a drug and alcohol program.
  5. Violation of 46 C.F.R. 67.7 for failure of a vessel of greater than 5 gross tons to have a Certificate of Documentation while in Coastwise trade.

“Illegal charters pose a danger to everyone aboard the vessel. Terminating these dangerous operations and educating the boating public is a top priority for the Coast Guard,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Kevinn Smith, officer in charge of the 87-foot Cutter Sea Lion. “If you suspect an illegal charter, reach out to the Coast Guard on channel 16.”

Owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face maximum civil penalties of $59,000 for illegal passenger-for-hire operations. Charters that violate a captain of the port order can face more than $94,000 in penalties. Some potential fines for illegally operating a charter vessel are:

  • Up to $7,710 for failure of operators to be enrolled in a chemical testing program.
  • Up to $4,803 for failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers.
  • Up to $16,398 for failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over 5 gross tons.
  • Up to $12,007 for failure to have been issued a valid Stability Letter prior to placing vessel in service with more than six passengers.
  • Up to $94,219 for every day of failure to comply with a Captain of the Port order.

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