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Coast Guard warns of illegal passenger operations for boating season

by U.S. Coast Guard 1st District Northeast 16 Jun 13:48 PDT
Coast Guard warns of illegal passenger operations for boating season © U.S. Coast Guard

The Coast Guard is emphasizing safe boating practices and awareness of illegal passenger operations ahead of the boating season.

As the summer approaches, more people are expected to get outdoors and go boating this season, many choosing to hire, or charter space on a boat. The Coast Guard will be conducting operations to deter and stop illegal passenger operations.

The Coast Guard is providing some tips to the public to help identify which boat companies and operators are compliant with safety regulations. Advertisements for boat rentals and trips, particularly online, portray glamorous, inexpensive, and exciting excursions. However, some companies and/or operators may be operating illegally.

Some boat companies may operate vessels that have not received a Coast Guard inspection. These vessels are often operated by inexperienced and non-credentialed operators who have not received required training and may not be subject to mandated drug testing. The public can protect themselves by learning to identify legitimate businesses who are operating legally. If you are paying for an excursion, the operator should state that they have a Coast Guard issued Merchant Mariner Credential and that they meet all Coast Guard requirements. Violations of law by the operator could lead to law enforcement intervention and a termination of the voyage.

Typically, a vessel that carries more than six passengers for hire on federal waterways will have a Coast Guard inspection decal and will post its Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection (COI). Smaller uninspected passenger vessels (UPV), carrying six or fewer passengers, are not required to have a COI. UPV's may choose to undergo a voluntary Coast Guard safety exam and display a Coast Guard decal for successful completion.

All operators of vessels carrying passengers for hire are required to hold a Coast Guard issued Merchant Mariner Credential. Legitimate businesses advertise their compliance with Coast Guard requirements. If you do not locate any indications of compliance with Coast Guard requirements, feel free to contact one of the numbers listed below.

If you are using your boat or renting a boat for recreational use with friends or family, we highly encourage compliance with new state boating education requirements, such as requiring a boater operator card and boating safety requirements. The Coast Guard Auxiliary also provides free recreational vessel safety examinations.

Boating safety should not be overlooked. Over the past year, 77 percent of fatal boating accidents were due to drowning and 75 percent were related to a failure to wear life jackets. Alcohol and drug use was the leading cause of boating related deaths in 22 percent of adults and children.

Boat owners should not take passengers on federal waterways in exchange for money or other forms of consideration unless they are legally permitted to do so. The Coast Guard strongly advises consulting a maritime attorney when using a vessel for commercial purposes. Violators of passenger carriage laws are subject to civil penalties, federal orders, and may be subject to criminal prosecution. Owners and operators of illegal passenger vessels can face maximum civil penalties of $60,000 or more for illegal passenger-for-hire operations and over $95,000 for violating a Coast Guard Captain of the Port Order.

To report illegal passenger operations or to schedule an Uninspected Passenger Vessel (UPV) Examination contact:

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