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Coast Guard Cautions About Illegal Charters

The Coast Guard is reminding the public that unlicensed vessel charters are both illegal and unsafe to the consumer.

The Coast Guard is currently investigating and issuing violations to owners of vessels offering unlicensed charter services in the state of Virginia.

Hiring an unlicensed charter is dangerous because it may not have the proper emergency safety gear, may not have the proper navigation and communication gear, and may not have undergone the proper license exams and inspections, which are put in place to ensure passenger safety.

“We want to ensure prospective passengers are putting their trust in properly-credentialed mariners who are capable of transporting them safely, adeptly, and in compliance of all federal regulations,” said Capt. Kevin Carroll, commander, Sector Hampton Roads. “Be vigilant and inquisitive when hiring a vessel for an underway trip. Before you take an excursion, ask to see the vessel operator’s license, and if the vessel is carrying more than six people, ask to see the Coast Guard-issued inspection sticker.”

Unlicensed vessel operators may not be aware that using their boat to take members of the public out for hire is illegal and may view it as a way to supplement income; however, it is illegal for individuals without a valid Coast Guard Merchant Mariner credential to engage in passenger for hire operations.
Anyone considering chartering or operating their vessel with passengers for hire should contact Sector Hampton Roads Marine Inspections at to discuss how regulations apply to you.

In accordance with Title 46 U.S. Code § 4106, if a vessel is operated in violation of applicable laws and regulations, the owner, charterer, managing operator, agent, master and individual in charge may be liable for a civil penalty up to $10,519 per violation per day. The boating community should remain vigilant and report any suspicious operations to 757-668-5555 or e-mail