The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:
(CHINCOTEAGUE, Va.) — The Coast Guard is encouraging tourists in Chincoteague this summer to check that charter boat captains are licensed and operating a vessel inspected by the Coast Guard.
Coast Guard personnel will continue to focus on enforcing federal regulations intended to ensure public safety. Coast Guard law enforcement boat crews will board vessels and cite charters that do not have licensed captains or are carrying more than six passengers without the required certificate of inspection.
Passengers should ask the boat's captain to show his or her original Coast Guard license. A boat is required to be inspected by the Coast Guard if it carries more than six passengers and the certificate should be clearly visible.
Illegal charter boats pose a number of risks:
• They may not carry proper lifesaving and firefighting equipment.
• Very few unlicensed vessels meet the minimum required federal standards for machinery, hull construction, wiring, stability, safety railings, or navigation equipment.
• The crews of illegal charter boats are not subject to pre-employment or random drug testing.
Licensed charter boats are not required by federal law to carry insurance. Passengers should ask whether the boat is insured as a passenger vessel. If not, passengers may be unable to pursue a claim if they are injured while aboard.
If an owner operates a charter illegally, the Coast Guard will seek maximum penalties. Vessel owners and operators can receive civil penalties up to $1,100 for a first violation offense. The Coast Guard can initiate action seeking to suspend or revoke the license of a Coast Guard licensed captain who carries more than six passengers.
"We respect the people's right to earn an honest living on Chincoteague Island, so long as mariners are doing so safely and legally," said Chief Petty Officer Gregg Pescuma, officer in charge at Station Chincoteague.