Coast Guard warns of illegal passenger vessel charters in San Diego

Pacific Southwest Coast Guard News
SAN DIEGO – The Coast Guard is cautioning charter boat owners and operators about the requirements to operate a boat for hire, following numerous reports of illegal passenger vessel operations in San Diego.

A maritime safety and security bulletin was issued Oct. 7, advising those who own, operate, or intend to operate a small passenger vessel of the legal requirements to do so.

These regulations are in place to establish the minimum safety standards for passenger vessel equipment and crew credentials.

Illegal charter boats are uninspected vessels or are operated by a captain without a mariner’s license, or in some instances both. The operation of a charter vessel without the required vessel documents and operator license is a violation of federal law, and if caught, the operator could be subject to criminal or civil liability. When all regulations are met a Certificate of Inspection is issued, showing that a vessel has met the Coast Guard safety standards in regard to fire extinguishing systems, vessel de-watering capabilities, life saving and navigation equipment requirements.

A boat captain must have a mariner’s license in order to legally operate a charter. Coast Guard issued mariner’s licenses show that the operator of a commercial vessel has met proficiency requirements in navigation, seamanship as well as steering and sailing rules. A paying passenger cannot be assured of the operator’s competency or the soundness of the vessel without a valid operator license and Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection.

If a vessel carries one or more paying passengers, the operator must have a Coast Guard-issued Merchant Mariner’s Credential.

Additionally, if a vessel carries more than six passengers, or is chartered with a crew provided, the vessel must be inspected by the Coast Guard and have a valid Certificate of Inspection.

“The Coast Guard is dedicated to reducing loss of life, injuries, and property damage that occur on U.S. waterways,” said Cmdr. Monica Rochester, the chief of Prevention at Coast Guard Sector San Diego. “Illegal operations put people and their families’ lives at risk when they bypass safety requirements. We are asking for the public’s help not to go out on vessels unless the captain can produce his or her original Coast Guard credential.  Additionally, request to view the Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection on inspected vessels.”

To view the safety and security bulletin, follow this link.

For more information on Merchant Mariner’s Credentials, call 1-888-427-5662, or go to

For information on obtaining a Certificate of Inspection, call 619-278-7241, or email

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