August 24, 2023
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The Coast Guard conducted vessel boardings to address unsafe and illegal boating practices aboard commercial passenger vessels, recreational vessels, and rental vessels Aug. 11-13, 2023, near Broad Bay, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The goal was to identify rental vessels under bareboat charter agreements operating as illegal passenger vessels. Illegal passenger vessels often lack important safety equipment and do not meet regulatory requirements.

“Recently, we’ve seen an increase in ‘bareboat charters,’ where a person pays to rent a boat, and often times will hire a captain separately,” said Lt. Alex Gagne, an investigating officer at Coast Guard Sector Virginia.

Customers renting a vessel under a bareboat charter agreement are cautioned that they should be aware of the limitations of that agreement to avoid the accidental use of the vessel as an illegal passenger vessel.

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“Bareboat charter and boat rental agreements that require the use of a licensed captain can give the impression that the renter is not liable for the safety of the vessel,” said Gagne. “When entering these agreements, the renter assumes responsibility for the vessel and ensuring that it meets all safety and regulatory requirements.”

Additionally, if the person renting a boat requires any other passenger to pay to board the vessel, the vessel then becomes a passenger vessel which is subject to additional safety equipment standards and regulatory requirements such as requiring a credentialed operator who is enrolled in a certified Department of Transportation drug testing program.

“Our mission is to ensure people are safe on the water, which includes understanding the safety and regulatory requirements before engaging in passenger-for-hire services,” said Lt. Joe Bannon, an enforcement officer at Coast Guard Sector Virginia. “Being on an illegal passenger vessel exposes passengers to serious risks. Customers should exercise caution and ask questions to ensure the captain is properly licensed and the vessel is outfitted with the necessary safety equipment.”

The Coast Guard conducts periodic, unannounced boardings of vessels with the goal of ensuring the safety of the boating public and full compliance with the minimum safety and regulatory standards required by law.

The Coast Guard takes all reports of illegal charters seriously and will work closely with local, state, and federal partners to investigate all reports.

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