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Coast Guard Cracks Down On Illegal Passenger-For-Hire Vessel Operations

SAN JUAN — Coast Guard Sector San Juan announced Thursday efforts against illegal passenger-or-hire vessel operations in Puerto Rico.

Since April, Coast Guard units and crews have conducted multiple operations targeting illegal passenger-for-hire vessel operations throughout Puerto Rico.  These operations have resulted in 70 vessel boardings, the issuing of 32 Coast Guard Captain of the Port Orders prohibiting this illegal practice, 13 safety violations, and 12 vessel voyage terminations.

In August, a federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging Carlos J. Izquierdo-Carrero with obstruction of justice and two counts of failure to obey Coast Guard Captain of the Port Orders.  The criminal charges are related to conducting illegal passenger-for-hire vessel operations at La Parguera in Lajas, Puerto Rico. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico is leading the prosecution for this case.

“We suspect there are many more owners, operators and vessels conducting illegal passenger-for hire and illegal charter operations in Puerto Rico, and we will remain vigilant and continue to take action to hold those responsible accountable,” said Capt. Gregory H. Magee, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “If you are involved in these illegal activities, I urge you to stop! These operations represent a serious threat to boating and public safety; they put our navigable waterways at risk, and are potentially harmful to the environment. Eventually you will get caught, and when that happens you will not only be exposed to losing your mariners credential, but you could also receive serious fines and potentially face criminal charges.”

The most common violations, including possible fines, are:

  • 46 CFR 15.515(b): Failure of a vessel on voyage and subject to inspection to be under direction and control of an individual with the appropriate Coast Guard license, maximum fine: $19,277.
  • 46 CFR15.401: Employment of an individual, or service in a position by an individual, without the appropriate license, maximum fine: $19,277.
  • 46 CFR 176.100(a): Failure to have a valid USCG Certificate of Inspection onboard a vessel, maximum fine: $4,888.
  • 46 CFR 25.25-5(a): Operation of a vessel without meeting the requirements of this subpart, maximum fine: $10,705.
  • 46 CFR 16.201: Failure of a marine employer to comply with the requirements concerning chemical testing of personnel in accordance with this subpart 46 CFR Part 40, maximum fine: $7,846.

Additionally, owners and operators in violation of a Captain of the Port Order can face civil penalties of over $95,000.

People interested in renting a boat or pay the owner/operator of a vessel for transportation, should ask the Captain to show their Coast Guard issued Merchant Mariner’s Credential, the vessel’s Certificate of Inspection and proof of enrollment in a drug and alcohol testing program.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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