Coast Guard officials said the service branch has halted at least five illegal charter voyages discovered across the Mid-Atlantic since July.
“The recent increase of illegal charters in the Maryland National Capital Region is a serious issue. Illegal charters pose a significant hazard to life, property, and the environment,” Lt. Cmdr. Sonha Gomez, chief, Investigations Division at Coast Guard Sector Maryland National Capital Region, said. “As a boat owner or operator, you are expected to comply with applicable State and Federal regulations to ensure safe operations for patrons.”
An illegal charter is a pay-for-hire operation in which boat owners or a hired hand take passengers on the water without proper credentials, and in some cases, without adequate safety gear or inspections.
“Charter boat patrons should request to see the Merchant Mariner Credential of the boat operator to verify proper operation of the vessel,” Gomez said. “Prior to paying for a charter, patrons should become familiar with bareboat charters to ensure all parties are safe.”
The Coast Guard maintains illegal charters pose a danger to the public, noting without proper credentialing, licensing, certified safety gear, emergency plans, and drug screenings in place, consumers may be hiring someone underprepared to safeguard them in emergency situations – believing they are hiring a professional mariner for tours, excursions or fishing trips.
Anyone suspecting someone is operating an illegal charter should call their nearest Coast Guard unit. Those with licensing questions should contact the Coast Guard at 1-888-427-5662 or 1-888-IASKNMC.