LAKE TAHOE —The Coast Guard stopped eight illegal charter boats operating on Lake Tahoe during a surge operation in early August.
The operation ran from Aug. 4 to Aug. 7, where Coast Guard investigators conducted more than 40 shoreside boat inspections and boarded more than 60 boats verifying passenger safety, captain’s licenses and drug-and-alcohol testing programs.
As a result, six voyages were terminated and eight boats were issued Captain of the Port orders to restrict their operations. The voyages were terminated due to the following:
- Violation of 46 C.F.R. 176.100 (a) for not having a valid Certificate of Inspection.
- Violation of 46 C.F.R 15.401(a) for not having an individual with an appropriate license.
- Violation of 46 C.F.R. 16.201 for failure to have a drug and alcohol program.
- Violation of Passenger Vessel Safety Act of 1993 for not operating as a valid bareboat charter.
“Illegal charters pose a serious risk to their passengers and to other boat operators on the water,” said Capt. Jordan Baldueza, the Coast Guard Sector San Francisco deputy commander. “Many times the vessels are overloaded with passengers, lack appropriate safety equipment, or may be operated by individuals lacking awareness of the dangers inherent to the maritime environment. We urge anyone suspecting a vessel of violating the law to report the alleged violation to Coast Guard Sector San Francisco.”
The Coast Guard urges anyone paying for a trip on a passenger vessel to 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 up to $80,000 in civil penalties for illegal passenger for hire operations. Some potential fines include:
- Up to $39,936 for failure to operate a passenger vessel with a Coast Guard license as per 46 U.S.C. 8906.
- Up to $16,398 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 $12,007 for failure to have a valid stability letter as per 46 C.F.R. 170.120.
- Up to $7,710 for failure to have a bona fide drug and alcohol testing program as per 46 C.F.R. 16.201.
- Up to $4,591 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.
To report an alleged illegal charter operation, contact the Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Command Center at (415) 399-7300 or SFOSCC@uscg.mil.