The Gulf Coast Illegal Charter (GCIC) Task Force, led by the U.S. Coast Guard, has taken action against several voyages across the Gulf Coast throughout March and April for violations of the Vessel Passenger Safety Act and regulations governing passenger vessels.
The GCIC Task Force is made up of over 10 partner agencies working together to combat illegal charter activities as the 2023 recreational boating season approaches.
One such incident occurred on March 11, 2023, when the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Alabama Marine Resources Division informed the Coast Guard of a charter fishing vessel in Orange Beach, Alabama, carrying eight passengers. Coast Guard investigators, alongside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement, are examining potential federal regulation breaches concerning passenger vessels and fisheries.
Later, on March 23, 2023, a Coast Guard boarding team from Station Gulfport and NOAA enforcement officers boarded a vessel in Biloxi, Mississippi, with 24 passengers. Coast Guard Sector Mobile investigators found the operator in violation of 46 C.F.R 15.515 (b) for not having a properly credentialed captain in charge of a small passenger vessel.
Most recently, on April 22, 2023, Coast Guard enforcement officers from Sector Mobile and Station Destin boarded six charter vessels, identifying one in violation of 46 C.F.R. 176.100(a), for not providing a Certificate of Inspection while carrying over six passengers for hire, and 46 C.F.R 15.515 (b), for lacking a properly credentialed captain for a small passenger vessel.
The task force has also terminated other voyages and is actively investigating illegal charter operations in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Capt. Ulysses S. Mullins, Sector Mobile commander, emphasized the importance of safety and enjoyment on the water. “We urge anyone paying for a trip on a passenger vessel to verify that their captain has a safety plan and a Merchant Mariner Credential. If the captain can’t produce their license, don’t get on the boat,” he said.
Illegal passenger vessel owners and operators could face civil penalties exceeding $60,000 for unauthorized passenger-for-hire operations, while charters that breach a captain-of-the-port order may receive civil penalties of up to $95,000 per violation. Other potential civil penalties include fines for failure to enroll in a chemical testing program, provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection, produce a valid Certificate of Documentation, or obtain a valid Stability Letter before operating with more than six passengers for hire.
Sign up for our newsletter