Coast Guard Talks Illegal Passenger Boat Operations With Clearwater Owners

Clearwater, Fla. -(970 WFLA)- The Coast Guard discussed illegal passenger boat operations with passenger vessel owners and operators Wednesday in Clearwater.

Coast Guard prevention officers from Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami met with more than 40 Passenger Vessel Association members in a combined effort to stop illegal passenger boat operations.

Illegal operations include, but are not limited to:

·Operating without an appropriate Coast Guard license.

 ·Failure of operators to be enrolled in a chemical testing program. 

·Failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers. 

·Failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over 5 net tons.

 "These conversations with legal operators are critical to keeping our waterways safe," said Lt. Cmdr. Byron Rios, a prevention officer at Coast Guard 7th District Miami.   "We want to work together to eliminate illegal operations."

The Coast Guard recommends all passengers paying for boating services ask the captain for merchant mariner credentials. 

If the boat is carrying more than six passengers, it is required to be inspected by the Coast Guard, and a Certificate of Inspection should be displayed in an area accessible to passengers.

"As legal operators, we want to ensure every guest is safe," said Bob Bijur, a Passenger Vessel Association member on the board of directors, and the safety and security committee.   "This was a great forum to further the conversation on illegal charters." 

Owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face maximum civil penalties of $41,456 for illegal passenger-for-hire operations. 

Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

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