Coast Guard halts two illegal charters near Tampa Bay

A Coast Guard Station Saint Petersburg 45-foot Response Boat-medium law enforcement crew, along with Coast Guard investigating officers terminate the voyage of a 50-foot uninspected passenger vessel with eight passengers for hire March 9, 2020 near Treasure Island, Florida. 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. (U.S. Coast Guard photo.)

A Coast Guard Station Saint Petersburg 45-foot Response Boat-medium law enforcement crew, along with Coast Guard investigating officers terminate the voyage of a 50-foot uninspected passenger vessel with eight passengers for hire March 9, 2020 near Treasure Island, Florida.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo.)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Coast Guard terminated two illegal charters Saturday and Monday near Tampa Bay, Florida.

A Coast Guard Station St. Petersburg 45-foot Response Boat-Medium law enforcement crew, along with Coast Guard investigating officers terminated the voyage of a 50-foot uninspected passenger vessel with eight passengers for hire on Monday, near Treasure Island, Florida. Coast Guard investigating officers along with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) also terminated the voyage of a 22-foot uninspected passenger vessel with six passengers for hire on Saturday near Naples, Florida.

The 50-foot passenger vessel violations include:


  • Violation of 46 C.F.R. 176.100 (a) for not having a valid Certificate of Inspection.
  • Violation of 46 C.F.R. 15.515 (b) for not having a credentialed mariner in control while operating a small passenger vessel.
  • 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.

The 22-foot passenger vessel violation includes:

  • Violation of 46 C.F.R. 15.605 (b) not having a credentialed mariner in control while operating an uninspected passenger vessel.

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. Each of the vessels were escorted back to their original moorings.

“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. 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 $4,685 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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