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Coast Guard issues warning about illegal charter boat operations

by | May 14, 2021 | Maritime And Admiralty Law

Now that summer is just around the corner and people are ready for a long-awaited vacation, the U.S. Coast Guard expects increased boating traffic in San Francisco’s Bay Area. Many tourists likely will flock to Northern California once coronavirus restrictions lift on June 15. As a result, the Coast Guard is urging the public to be aware of illegal charter boat operations.

Illegal charter boat operations

If you see an advertisement for an inexpensive boat rental or charter boat excursion in the Bay Area, you could be putting your safety at risk. Boat captains leading a charter operation must have a license and receive certification from the Coast Guard. Without those, the charter boat operation is illegal and the boat captain may not be properly qualified. Also, if the Coast Guard or law enforcement find a charter boat operating illegally, they can stop the voyage.

If a vessel carries even six passengers for hire, it must have a valid Coast Guard inspection decal clearly visible on it. The boat’s captain should have a Coast Guard license and carry their credentials on board. Even if a charter boat doesn’t have six passengers aboard, an operator voluntarily may go through a Coast Guard safety exam and have their boats examined. These boats may have a Coast Guard safety inspection decal displayed.

If passengers don’t see a Coast Guard certification on their charter boat, they should get off the boat.

What boat owners should know about offering charter services

If you are a boat owner and are thinking about offering charter boat services this summer, you should consult a maritime attorney. You want to ensure you are following all laws about using a vessel for commercial purposes. If you don’t have proper insurance or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) approval and Coast Guard certification, you could face significant fines. You could face increased liability if an accident occurs and a passenger is injured during a charter trip.

Having the proper licensing, inspections and insurance is important if you want to offer charter services. Passengers have the right to expect a certain level of safety when embarking on a for-hire boating excursion.