SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - With the 4th of July less than a week away, the United States Coast Guard is cracking down on illegal boat charters, a problem it calls a “growing concern.”
The San Diego sector office has dedicated its entire prevention department to tackle the issue.
Lt. Stefanie Hodgdon says all charter boats that carry more than six passengers must be inspected annually by the Coast Guard and have a visible certificate of inspection.
If a boat charter is carrying less than six people, it requires a Coast Guard credentialed mariner and current state registration.
The Coast Guard defines a charter boat as “any vessel carrying passengers for monetary gain, any form of economic benefit, or a donation as a condition of carriage.”
In addition to worries about public safety, legal charter companies say their businesses are being undercut by the illegal ventures.
Amos Zolna, owner of Zolna Yachts, said he has seen a rise in illegal charters over the past few years.
Not only do they cut costs by skirting permits, he has heard of many operators who avoid paying port fees, which can total 6-10 percent of a charter companies revenue.
The problem he says is many consumers don’t know what is and isn’t a legitimate operation. It’s caused his company to lose business to companies he’s never heard of.
“We cannot compete with prices when someone is operating illegally,” he said.
He recommends potential customers call the marina where a boat is docked before they book. Marina owners have specific knowledge of which boats are permitted for certain activities.