Coast Guard halts illegal charter in Tampa Bay with 13 on board

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(ST.PETERSBURG, Fla.) — The U.S. Coast Guard terminated an illegal charter in Tampa Bay, Fla., on Saturday, with 13 passengers for hire on board.

A Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg boarding team, along with the Tampa Police Department Marine Unit, boarded a 48-foot boat that was operating as a bareboat charter.

After investigation, Coast Guard officers deemed the boat was operating as an illegal small passenger vessel, terminated the charter’s voyage, and escorted the boat and passengers back to downtown Tampa.

“Under a bareboat charter contract, the person who rents the charter must be given the option to hire any captain of their choosing, or operate the boat themselves,” said Brian Knapp, senior investigating officer at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “If a bareboat renter is assigned a captain without any options, the bareboat charter designation no longer applies.”

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Coast Guard officers terminated the charter’s voyage and escorted the boat and passengers back to downtown Tampa. U.S. Coast Guard photo

The violation includes failure to have a valid certificate of inspection.

“We urge bareboat patrons to review and become familiar with the bareboat charter regulations before paying for a charter,” said Knapp. “Anyone paying for a trip on a traditional passenger vessel should ask to see the merchant mariner credential of the boat operator to verify their captain is properly licensed by the Coast Guard. If the captain can’t produce their license, don’t get on the boat.”

Owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face maximum civil penalties of over $60,000 for illegal passenger-for-hire operations.

Some potential fines for illegally operating a charter vessel are:

• Up to $19,505 for failure of an inspected vessel to be under the control of an individual with the appropriate Coast Guard license.

• Up to $7,939 for failure of operators to be enrolled in a chemical testing program.

• Up to $4,946 for failure to provide a Coast Guard certificate of inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers.

• Up to $16,844 for failure to produce a valid certificate of documentation for vessels over 5 net tons.

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Professional Mariner Staff