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Hawaii News

Coast Guard and NOAA targeting illegal boat charters

The Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement are targeting illegal boat charters in Hawaii through September.

“Coast Guard Sector Honolulu is conducting Operation Kapena Kohole alongside NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement to target and prevent recent cases of sea turtle, monk seal and dolphin harassment reported from beachgoers and waterborne tours,” said Sector Honolulu’s command security officer, Chief Warrant Officer Omar Perez.

The state has a large legitimate commercial charter boat fleet, but “within these legitimate operators, illegal charters disguise themselves as alternatives for hire, threatening the safety of an unaware public,” the Coast Guard said in a news release.

These illegal charters might not be properly outfitted for commercial use.

Also the master of the vessel might not have the proper merchant mariners credentials to legally operate a vessel with passengers for hire, which would show the individual’s proficiency requirements in navigation, seamanship, steering and sailing rules.

The Coast Guard warns against employing charters and tours from captains who are not certified by the Coast Guard or do not have valid merchant mariner credentials, adding that it could be life-threatening to do so.

The Coast Guard urges paying passengers to verify that their captain has a safety plan and their merchant mariner credentials are up to date. For larger charter boats, or those with more than six passengers, ask for a Coast Guard-issued certificate of inspection.

Charter vessels must carry a certain number of personal flotation devices and other lifesaving equipment on board for all passengers and crew. If the operator cannot produce appropriate credentials or equipment, passengers should not get on the boat, the Coast Guard says.

Illegal charter boat owners and operators can face up to $27,500 in fines for illegal passenger for hire operations.

To report an alleged illegal charter operation, call the Coast Guard at 842-2603 or scchonolulu@uscg.mil.

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