Illegal charter ends with rescue in south Florida

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

(MIAMI) — The Coast Guard terminated the voyage of the 35-foot pleasure craft Catviar near Fisher Island after two people from Catviar were rescued from the water by a good Samaritan on Saturday.

A Coast Guard Station Miami 33-foot special purpose craft-law enforcement boat crew arrived on scene after the rescue and conducted the boarding of Catviar in Fisher Island, where they discovered the following violations:

• Violation of 46 C.F.R. 176.100A for not having a valid certificate of inspection.
• Violation of 46 C.F.R. 15.515B for not having a credentialed mariner in control while operating a small passenger vessel.
• Violation of 46 C.F.R. 16.201 for failure to have a drug and alcohol program.
• Violation of 46 C.F.R. 170.120 for failure to have a valid stability letter.

The owner and operator of Catviar faces maximum civil penalties amounting to $41,546 for this illegal passenger for hire operation.

“Operators of boats wishing to take paying customers must have a licensed crew, properly certificated vessel and a charter contract that meets all Code of Federal Regulation Requirements,” said Capt. Megan Dean, commander of Coast Guard Sector Miami. “Those vessel operators who are not properly certified lack a trained crew, safety equipment required to operate in the maritime environment and are often overloaded with more passengers than is safe for the vessel size and conditions. Luckily the two people were rescued, but it's important to point out illegal charters put paying customers at serious risk of injury or death.”

The Coast Guard and Coast Guard Investigative Service are targeting illegal charter operations and will seek civil and criminal penalties against non-compliant operators.

It is important for passengers to understand if they pay for illegal charters, they are subject to arrest or fines and should always ask to see the operators merchant credential and the vessel’s certificate of inspection if there is any doubt as to the legitimacy of the charter.

By Professional Mariner Staff