Coast Guard shuts down illegal charter in Seattle

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(SEATTLE) — Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound personnel prevented a vessel from operating illegally with more than six passengers for hire and potentially eliminated an unsafe condition Wednesday evening.

The vessel Longhorn, an uninspected vessel moored at Fisherman’s Terminal in Ballard, is limited to carrying only six passengers for hire and intended to get underway with 19 passengers for hire and in violation of Coast Guard vessel inspection requirements.

The owner of the vessel was unable to show proof of a drug and alcohol program and enrollment in a random testing program; a requirement when intending to carry passengers for hire.

“We have received reports of a growing number of illegal charter operations in this area, especially on the lake during Seafair and Husky games,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kira Moody, chief of investigations, Sector Puget Sound. “The Coast Guard strongly urges potential customers to be mindful of the dangers when using unauthorized vessel operators. Passengers should ask to see operator’s Coast Guard credentials and if the vessel meets all minimum regulatory standards to carry their party.”

Uninspected passenger vessels are your typical fishing guides or tour boats. UPV operations transiting on navigable waters of the U.S. must meet certain federal safety requirements and the operator must have the proper license.

More boat owners are advertising their vessels for service through peer-to-peer boating sharing websites that don’t know risk or regulations for chartering a vessel.

“We caution the public to verify information posted on a boating sharing site or app,” said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Drayer, passenger vessel safety specialist, Coast Guard 13th District. “We have seen an uptick over the last couple of years with owners posted information when not legally licensed or authorized to carry paying passengers.”

The Coast Guard is committed to ensuring all commercial vessels carrying passengers meet federal safety standards. The laws governing inspection standards for passenger vessels were enacted after several casualties resulted in the tragic loss of over 70 lives on board vessels that failed to have adequate fire safety, life-saving, and navigation equipment.

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 Sector Puget Sound at (206) 217-6208.

By Professional Mariner Staff