Coast Guard warns of illegal passenger vessels, recommends vigilance by public
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As the summer visitor season kicks into full swing, with many booking charters for their dream Alaskan experience, the United States Coast Guard says it is working to “detect and deter illegal passenger operations” across the state, and warning the public to be vigilant in looking out for illegal passenger operations.
“Some boat companies operate vessels that have not received a Coast Guard inspection,” stated a release from the Coast Guard 17th District Alaska. “Operators could be inexperienced and non-credentialed. They might not have completed required training or be enrolled in a mandated drug testing program. The public can protect themselves by learning to identify legitimate businesses who are operating legally.”
The Marine Exchange of Alaska is a site that lists charter vessels which are known to be enrolled in the USCG 17th District 5-Star Safety Program, which identifies vessels that “go above and beyond the regulations.”
“Past marine accidents and Alaska’s harsh operating environment have pointed to the need for an increase in the level of safety equipment that extends beyond the minimum required by regulation,” the Coast Guard release said. “The level of additional equipment is indicated by the number of safety stars displayed on the UPV (Uninspected Passenger Vessel) decal.”
Over the past year, the Coast Guard says, 77% of fatal boating incidents were because of drowning, and 75% were related to a failure to wear life jackets.
”It is important for the safety of all involved that you do your homework before selecting a charter company,” said Cmdr. Jason Boyer, 17th Coast Guard District Chief of Prevention, in the prepared statement. “Your diligence will help ensure the company meets regulations for required safety equipment and Coast Guard credentials. Don’t place your friends or family at risk or chance having your voyage cut short by the Coast Guard.”
The Coast Guard says that if you are with a charter company that takes more than six passengers at a time on federal waterways, the vessel should typically have a valid Coast Guard certificate of inspection. If possessed, those would be posted in a visible location along with an inspection decal.
Smaller passenger vessels that carry half-a-dozen or fewer passengers are not required to have a certificate of inspection or inspection decal, according to the USCG, but they are all still required to be operated by a person with a valid Coast Guard license.
“All operators of vessels carrying passengers for hire are required to hold a Coast Guard-issued Merchant Mariner Credential,” according to the release from the USCG, which added that “legitimate businesses advertise their compliance with Coast Guard requirements.”
Owners and operators of illegal passenger vessels, the agency wrote, can face fines of $60,000 or more for illegal passenger-for-hire operations. Those figures can quickly rise to $95,000 or more for violating a Coast Guard Captain of the Port Order.
You can report illegal passenger operations or schedule an Uninspected Passenger Vessel (UPV) Examinations via phone. For Western and Southcentral Alaska, call (907) 428-4100; for Prince William Sound, call (907) 428-4100; and for Southeast Alaska, call (907) 463-2980.
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