Illegal passenger vessel operations, to include illegal bareboat charters, continue to be a serious issue throughout the nation. Operators circumventing the required charter requirements, credentialing, and/or safety regulations pose a significant hazard to life, property, and the environment. Furthermore, illegal charters undermine legal commercial vessel operators who comply with existing law and regulations.
A vessel carrying "passengers for hire" (i.e. someone who contributes any economic benefit, monetary contribution, or a donation as a condition of carriage) requires a Coast Guard credentialed operator. In addition, if carrying more than six passengers, the vessel must have a valid Certificate of Inspection issued by the Coast Guard. These requirements provide proof that the Coast Guard has verified both the operator and the vessel meet specific minimum federal safety standards.
With the rapid expansion of online boat rental services, it is easier than ever to rent a vessel for personal use. However, this also provides more opportunity for owners to knowingly or unknowingly conduct a commercial operation without meeting the established charter vessel requirements. When reserving trips, online or otherwise, prospective passengers are encouraged to ask the operator in advance for proof the vessel is compliant with Coast Guard requirements. They may also request for a vessel's captain to show his or her valid Coast Guard credential. If passengers want to verify a captain's license or the inspected status of a commercial passenger vessel, report an illegal charter operation, or if a vessel operator desires more information on how to meet federal requirements, please call Coast Guard Sector Virginia at the number provided below.
The charter, lease, or rental of a boat, without a crew, is considered a bareboat charter. A bareboat charter cannot carry more than 12 passengers in addition to the charterer. A vessel bareboat chartered which is carrying more than 12 passenger is required to be inspected by the Coast Guard.
As always, the Coast Guard maintains its presence on navigable waterways in order to ensure compliance with all federal requirements. In conjunction with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, Sector Virginia will continue to conduct boardings focused on promoting safe and legal charter operations. Operators found to be in violation of these requirements may be subject to voyage termination, civil penalty action, or criminal prosecution.
For additional information, or to report potentially illegal charter activity, please contact U.S. Coast Guard, Sector Virginia Command Center at (757) 686-6641.