Overloaded Sightseeing Vessel Has Voyage Terminated

TAMPA, Fla. – The Coast Guard terminated the voyage of an overloaded 45-foot sightseeing commercial vessel near Tarpon Springs, Fla., at approximately 3:30 p.m. today.

A Coast Guard boarding officer from Coast Guard Station Sand Key, Fla., boarded the vessel Yiannis Dolphin and observed that the vessel was overloaded.

The Yiannis Dolphin, owned and operated by Spongeorama’s Cruise Lines, Inc., was underway with 75 passengers on board, with the maximum allowable amount at 49 passengers and two crew members. The Coast Guard immediately ordered the vessel to return to dock.

Spongeorama’a Cruise Lines, Inc., was issued an initial notice of violation for the amount of $5,750. The operator of the Yiannis Dolphin will face suspension or revocation proceeding of his Coast Guard-issued Merchant Mariners License. Additionally, other civil penalties may be issued against Spongeorama’s Cruise Lines, Inc. and the operator of the vessel.

“It’s unfortunate that the passengers, especially the children, didn’t get to complete the voyage ,” said Capt. Joseph Servidio, commander of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “But we cannot allow any commercial vessels to operate in an overloaded condition and to threaten the safety of their passengers. We will aggressively take action when commercial vessels are operated illegally.”

To help ensure the safety of passengers, federal regulations require that passenger vessels undergo stringent safety inspections in order receive a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection. These inspections ensure that the vessels’ seaworthiness, safety equipment, and crew competencies meet current safety standards, and must be adhered to. There are currently more than 11 vessels that operate with Certificates of Inspection operating in the Tarpon Springs area, meeting or exceeding the federal safety standards for vessels carrying passengers.

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