Coast Guard, PBSO stop illegal charter, arrest operator off Riviera Beach

Palm Beach Sheriff officers and Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet board the 41-foot vessel Ace in the Hole near New Port Cove Marina, Jan. 26, 2020. The vessel was being operated as an illegal small passenger vessel with 20 passengers for hire, one operator, and only nine life jackets. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Palm Beach Sheriff officers and Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet board the 41-foot vessel Ace in the Hole near New Port Cove Marina, Jan. 26, 2020.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

MIAMI — Palm Beach Sheriff officers requested Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet assistance Tuesday after boarding the 41-foot vessel Ace in the Hole near New Port Cove Marina.

The Sheriff officers took the operator into custody for a prior arrest warrant.

Station Lake Worth Inlet’s law enforcement team found a small amount of marijuana, a loaded gun, signs of potential underage drinking. The contraband was taken into custody and transferred to Coast Guard Investigative Service agents.

The law enforcement team determined the vessel was operating as an illegal small passenger vessel. There were 21 people aboard: 20 passengers-for-hire and one operator. There were only nine life jackets.

Passengers reported paying $800 for a six hour charter.

The voyage was terminated and cited for the following violations:

  1. Failure for not having a valid Certificate of Inspection.
  2. Failure to have a valid Certificate of Documentation endorsed for Coastwise Trade.
  3. Failure to have a drug and alcohol program.
  4. Failure to have a credential mariner in control while operating as a small passenger vessel.
  5. Failure to employ an appropriately credentialed mariner.
  6. Failure to have Type 1 personal flotation devices for all persons aboard.

“It is incredibly irresponsible as an operator to have 21 occupants on a vessel with only nine life jackets,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Nicole J. Groll, public affairs specialist, Seventh District. “The operator is putting lives at risk without having the basic lifesaving equipment.”

“These boardings are not going to stop,” said Coast Guard Sector Miami Investigations Officer, Lt. j.g. Danny Hicks. “Our partner law enforcement officers and Coast Guard law enforcement teams will make sure charters are operating legally under state and federal law, and everyone is safe on the water.”

Owners and operators of illegal passenger vessels can face maximum civil penalties of $60,000 or more for illegal passenger-for-hire-operations. Charters that violate a Captain of the Port Order can face over $95,000 in penalties. Some potential civil penalties for illegally operating a passenger vessel are:

  • Up to $7,846 for failure of operators to be enrolled in a chemical testing program.
  • Up to $4,888 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 $95,881 for every day of failure to comply with a Captain of the Port Order.

For more information about bareboat charters, please click here.

Anyone with information regarding an illegal charter is encouraged to contact CGIS.

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