Mainly, in separate incidents in 2017 to 2018, the Coast Guard issued COTP Order violations against the yachts No Rules II and the Golden Touch II for illegal charter activities.
Both vessels were found operating with more than six passengers for hire without a licensed operator on board or a valid Coast Guard inspection. To this result, USCG ordered the operators to halt activities until compliant with applicable laws and regulations, or face substantial civil penalties and/or prison time.
Moreover, USCG teams boarded No Rules II and the Golden Touch II again and found each to be in violation of the orders. It’s not uncommon for vessels with a history of citations to be targeted for additional inspection.
As Lt. Cmdr. Byron Rios, who works in the Coast Guard 7th District Office of Prevention commented
Illegal charter operators should realize that if we know you’ve violated Federal boating laws in the past, there’s a good chance we’re going to follow up and make sure you’ve corrected whatever issues we found.
He continued that when one breaks the law, they give the opportunity for additional compliance inspections.
Consequently, the owners of the vessels were charged under federal law and convicted for operating illegal passenger charters.
A federal judge in Southern Florida ordered the owner of the No Rules II to pay a $96,000 fine and serve five years of probation, including the requirement that he stay away from any type of boat. The owner of the Golden Touch II was sentenced to 180 days of home detention, three years of probation and a $4,000 fine.
In light of these incidents, the Coast Guard urges passengers to request to see the vessel operator’s valid credential and/or proof of any required inspection or examination before hiring any crewed charter vessel, water taxi, or other type of waterborne transportation, to ensure they possess a Coast Guard issued Merchant Mariner’s Credential suitable for the vessel’s service.
In addition, Illegal operations by individuals who are either unaware of or avoiding U.S. laws and Coast Guard regulations governing operator credentialing requirements, vessel inspections, operational standards, and safety equipment pose serious safety concerns to the public and the environment, but also adversely impact the livelihood of legitimate operators who do comply with federal requirements.
Concluding, USCG proposes that for more information on how to verify if a charter is properly inspected and licensed, or to report suspected illegal charter activities, contact your local Coast Guard sector.