The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
Personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Chicago Police Department wrapped up a joint operation Friday intended to deter illegal charter boat operations occurring in the downtown-Chicago area.
Personnel from the Coast Guard, Chicago Police Department, and IDNR Conservation Police teamed up in response to multiple reports by local licensed charter captains that recreational vessels appeared to be operating illegal charters in the Chicago area.
One of those reports prompted Coast Guard and IDNR personnel to investigate a vessel carrying passengers for hire on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Members of IDNR and CPD attended a scheduled charter on the vessel. As the charter got underway, the agents identified themselves and returned the vessel to the dock. Coast Guard investigators were contacted to complete the investigation with IDNR and CPD. Coast Guard investigators issued the operator a Notice of Violation, which can carry a penalty ranging from $110 to $32,500, depending on the specific violation. IDNR issued separate citations for violations of state laws including the lack of a U.S Coast Guard license. The operator's boat was also confiscated by Chicago Police, as he was operating commercially without appropriate business license requirements.
"The success of this evolution was culmination of a multi-agency effort," said Lt. Cmdr. Stacy Miller, executive officer of Coast guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago. "Each agency's participation was vital in the elimination of another unsafe operation in the heavily congested Chicago River."
The operation of a charter vessel without the required vessel documents and operator license is a violation of federal law, and if convicted, the captain could be subject to criminal or civil liability. The regulations are in place to help ensure the safety of passengers. Illegal charter boats are typically recreational vessels and are generally operated by a person without the required Coast Guard-issued captain’s license.
Coast Guard-issued captains licenses demonstrate that the captain of a commercial vessel has met minimum proficiency requirements in navigation and seamanship rules. A paying passenger cannot be assured of the captain’s competency when the captain does not possess a valid captain’s license. The Coast Guard advises the public to ask the boat’s captain to show them his or her original Coast Guard license.
If the boat is carrying more than six passengers, it is required to be inspected by the Coast Guard, and the Certificate of Inspection should be displayed in an area accessible to passengers. The Certificate of Inspection shows a vessel has met the minimum Coast Guard safety standards in regard to fire-extinguishing systems, manning, vessel de-watering capabilities, and life saving and navigation equipment requirements. It also sets the maximum number of passengers the vessel can carry.
If the public wants to verify a captain’s license or the inspected status of a vessel carrying more than six passengers, or to report an illegal charter operation, they can call Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan 24/7 at 414-747-7182.
The joint operation was an extension of the partnership developed during this year’s Chicago Public Safety Campaign.