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The U.S. Coast Guard has imposed a hefty civil penalty of nearly $100,000 to a mariner found operating an illegal charter vessel near Destin, Florida.
The pontoon vessel had been boarded multiple times over the past year by Coast Guard Station Destin boarding teams, Sector Mobile Marine Investigators and Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office officers after receiving tips from concerned members of the public.
A Coast Guard Sector Mobile’s Investigations Division investigation determined that on multiple occasions the operator of the vessel was in violation of federal laws, including failure to provide a Certificated of Inspection while carrying more than six passengers for hire (46 C.F.R. 176.100(a)) and failure to comply with a Captain-of-the-Port Order (33 C.F.R. 160.105).
A Coast Guard Hearing Officer imposed a $98,364 civil penalty.
“Operators of illegal charters directly endanger our citizens,” said Capt. Ulysses Mullins, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Mobile. “It is a top priority for Sector Mobile to ensure charter vessels operate safely and in full compliance with the law. The Coast Guard, along with our state and local law enforcement partners, will continue to educate the public and vigorously pursue those individuals who violate the statutory and regulatory requirements of the Passenger Vessel Safety Act.”
Owners and operators of illegal passenger vessels may be subject to civil penalties of $60,000 or more for illegal passenger-for-hire-operations. Charters that violate a Captain-of-the-Port Order may be subject to civil penalties of $95,000 per violation.
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