Coast Guard boards suspected illegal charter boat in Tampa Bay

A chartered cruise was terminated abruptly by the U.S Coast Guard.
A chartered cruise was terminated abruptly by the U.S Coast Guard.(United States Coast Guard)
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 2:53 PM EST
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WWSB) - The Coast Guard says it shut down an illegal charter Saturday operating in Tampa Bay.

A Coast Guard boarding team, along with a Tampa Police Department Marine Unit, boarded a 48-foot boat that was allegedly operating as a bareboat charter with 13 passengers for hire.

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, an investigator at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “If a bareboat renter is assigned a captain without any options, the bareboat charter designation no longer applies.

“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,” he said.

Anyone suspecting a vessel of violating the law, report the alleged violation to the Coast Guard at 727-502-8720.

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.

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