Coast Guard rescues seven 12 miles south of Key Colony

Coast Guard 33-foot Special Purpose Craft—Law Enforcement file photo by PA3 James Judge

Coast Guard 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement file photo by PA3 James Judge

KEY WEST, Fla. – The Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol rescued seven people while halting an illegal charter, Friday, approximately 12 miles south of Key Colony.

Coast Guard Sector Key West watchstanders received a call from the 39-foot commercial vessel, Grand Slam, crew via VHF Channel 16 stating they were taking on water. A Coast Guard Station Marathon 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement crew and a CBP surface asset crew arrived at the scene. The CBP crew embarked the seven people from the vessel while the Station Marathon crew assisted in dewatering. Once finished, the crew was returned to the Grand Slam and escorted ashore by the Station Marathon crew.

The Station Marathon crew conducted a post-search and rescue boarding and discovered the Grand Slam was in violation of 46 C.F.R. 15.605 for failure to have a credentialed operator for an uninspected passenger vessel. A Captain of the Port order will be issued.

“Before you step aboard a vessel, ask to see the captain’s credentials and their vessel’s certificate of inspection to ensure the vessel has all the required safety equipment aboard in case of an emergency,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Larry Johnson, boarding officer at Station Marathon. “Illegal charters can be dangerous with unqualified and untrained operators unaware of what to do in maritime emergency situations.”

Owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face maximum civil penalties of: $60,000 or over for illegal passenger-for-hire-operations. Charters that violate a Captain of the Port Order can face over $95,000. Some potential civil penalties for illegally operating a charter 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.
  • 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.
  • Up to $95,881 for every day of failure to comply with a Captain of the Port Order.

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