In a spot check of more than 60 boats operating on Lake Tahoe, the U.S. Coast Guard stopped four illegal charter trips Aug. 4-7.
During the check, the Coast Guard boarded the boats to verify passenger safety, captain’s licenses, bareboat charter agreements, and drug-and-alcohol testing programs. In addition, the Coast Guard provided training on legal commercial and recreational passenger vessel operations to more than 20 law enforcement officers and 40 local vessel operators.
“Unlicensed mariners or those who operate outside the limits of their license are putting the lives of their passengers at risk,” said Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Commander Capt. Taylor Lam. “We have seen a sharp increase in the number of illegal passenger operations, and we strongly urge anyone looking to charter a boat to verify the captain’s license and the safety of the vessel.”
The Coast Guard urges anyone paying for a trip on a passenger vessel verify that their captain has a safety plan and a Merchant Mariner Credential. For larger charter boats or those with more than six passengers, ask to see a Coast Guard issued Certificate of Inspection. If the operator cannot produce appropriate credentials, passengers should not get on the boat.
Any boat carrying passengers for hire are required to hold a Coast Guard license and meet minimum safety standards. Proper emergency safety gear, navigational systems and communication equipment are required for safe operations. Uninspected passenger vessels are only permitted to carry up to six passengers for hire under Coast Guard regulations.
Owners and operators of illegal charter boats can face civil penalties over $75,000 for illegal passenger for hire operations.
Potential fines include:
Up to $43,678 for failure to operate a passenger vessel with a Coast Guard license as per 46 U.S.C. 8906.
Up to $17,935 for failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over five net tons as per 46 U.S.C. 12151(a) (1).
Up to $8,433 for failure to have a bona fide drug and alcohol testing program as per 46 C.F.R. 16.201.
Up to $5,254 for failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers as per 46 C.F.R. 176.100.