Coast Guard terminates three illegal charter vessels in San Diego Bay

SAN DIEGO — Coast Guard Sector San Diego personnel terminated three illegal charter boats operating in San Diego Bay over the weekend.

Sector San Diego boarding team members and investigators identified three illegal charter boats operating in the bay and terminated all three voyages due to unsafe overloading conditions, insufficient lifesaving equipment and failure to provide a qualified or licensed operator while carrying passengers for hire.

“Illegal charters are a serious risk to their passengers and to other boat operators on the water,” said Cmdr. Ronald Caputo, Coast Guard Sector San Diego prevention. “There is a reason for the regulations we put in place; we don’t want lives to be lost. We urge anyone suspecting that a vessel is violating the law to report the alleged violation to Coast Guard Sector San Diego.”

All three vessels received a captain of the port order that restricts those boats from operating until they prove they have satisfied all valid charter requirements to the Coast Guard. During the investigations, it became apparent they were booked through online applications. While these applications simplify the booking of voyages, responsibility for compliance with Coast Guard passenger safety laws and requirements rest solely with the boat owners, not the online application administrators.

The Coast Guard urges anyone paying for a trip on a passenger vessel to verify that their captain has a safety plan and a Merchant Mariner Credential. For larger charter boats or those with more than six passengers, ask to see a Coast Guard issued Certificate of Inspection. If the operator cannot produce appropriate credentials, passengers should not get on the boat.

Any boat carrying passengers for hire are required to hold a Coast Guard license and meet minimum safety standards. Proper emergency safety gear, navigational systems and communication equipment are required for safe operations. Uninspected passenger vessels are only permitted to carry up to six passengers for hire under Coast Guard regulations.

Owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face maximum civil penalties exceeding $59,000 for illegal passenger-for-hire-operations. Charters that violate a captain of the port order can face over $500,000 in penalties and may result in Class D felony charges.

Some potential fines for illegally operating a charter vessel are:

  • $7,710 for failure of operators to enroll in a drug and alcohol testing program.
  • $4,803 for failure to provide a Coast Guard certificate of inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers.
  • $16,398 for failure to produce a valid certificate of documentation for vessels over 5 gross tons.
  • $12,007 for lack of a valid stability letter prior to placing vessel in service with more than six passengers.
  • $94,219 for every day of failure to comply with a captain of the port order.

For additional recreational boating safety information, please visit

For information regarding your boating operations or charter regulations, please contact Sector San Diego Investigations Division personnel at (619) 572-2904 or via email at

To verify a captain’s license, verify the inspected status of a vessel carrying more than six passengers, or if you would like to report a potential illegal charter, please contact the Coast Guard Sector San Diego Joint Harbor Operations Center personnel at (619) 278-7033 or

Coast Guard inspection decal example

Coast Guard inspection decal example

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