Coast Guard launches “Research Before Renting” initiative

CHICAGO — The Coast Guard has partnered with the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to create a new initiative aimed at promoting passenger safety onboard charter vessels.

“Research Before Renting” is a short, user-friendly quiz passengers take online before stepping onboard a rental vessel. Prospective renters scan a QR code, answer a few simple questions, then are guided to a customized landing page that provides details about the boat they are renting and a few things to check while onboard. Posters promoting the campaign and featuring the QR code are posted around the Chicago waterfront.

The Coast Guard, along with other law enforcement agencies, will be strictly enforcing boat rental regulations this summer. Just two weeks ago, a case from 2019 resulted in an illegal charter operator being sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison, the longest prison term ever received for this type of violation.

Passengers who board an illegal charter may find their trip delayed or canceled if the vessel is boarded by law enforcement. Additionally, if passengers are coached to give false statements to law enforcement officials, those passengers can personally face fines and potential prosecution.

“This recent sentencing highlights how seriously we are taking illegal operations, at all levels of government,” said Cmdr. Timothy Tilghman, commanding officer of Marine Safety Unit Chicago. “As we are enforcing these regulations to the fullest extent of the law, it is also important for passengers to have accurate information about the safety and compliance of their chosen rental. The ‘Research Before Renting’ initiative empowers passengers to make informed decisions and helps create a safer maritime environment for everyone.”

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