Illegal charter boats pose threat to public safety

united states coast guard 

News Release  

U.S. Coast Guard 11th District Pacific Southwest
Contact: 11th District Public Affairs
Office: (510) 437-3325
After Hours: (510) 772-8865
11th District online newsroom

Illegal charter boats pose threat to public safety

SAN FRANCISCO — The Coast Guard is continuing their mission to reduce unlicensed and illegal charter boats in the Bay Area.

Coast Guard units have recently boarded more than 50 vessels in the Bay Area to verify captain's licenses and drug-and-alcohol testing programs, while Coast Guard investigators have conducted focused education and outreach efforts at local marinas and fishing docks to address the growing concern over illegal charters. 

Boaters should expect the Coast Guard to be actively engaging with operators to promote safe and legal passenger vessel operations as all boats carrying passengers for hire are required to hold a Coast Guard license and meet minimum safety standards. 

"Our top concern is passenger safety," said Lt. Anna Funk, Coast Guard Sector San Francisco investigator. "If someone gets underway on an unlicensed, unregulated charter boat, they could be putting themselves and their loved ones in danger. Illegal charter boats and crews have no oversight and may not have the experience or equipment to ensure passengers are safe."

Boat operators who transport paying passengers illegally without a license or without complying with federal safety regulations pose a serious and dangerous risk on the waterways, because they may not have the proper emergency safety gear and navigation and communication equipment aboard their vessel, and they may not have undergone the proper license exams or vessel inspections.

Owners and operators of illegal charter boats can face maximum civil penalties of over $80,000 for illegal passenger for hire operations. 

Some potential fines include:

*       Up to $39,936 for failure to operate a passenger vessel without a Coast Guard license
*       Up to $16,398 for failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over five net tons
*       Up to $12,007 for failure to have a valid stability letter
*       Up to $7,710 for failure to have a bona fide drug and alcohol testing program
*       Up to $4,591 for failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers

For additional recreational boating safety information, please visit

For information regarding your boating operations or charter regulations, please contact Sector San Francisco Investigations Division at (510) 813-9636 or email at 

To verify a captain's license, verify the inspected status of a vessel carrying more than six passengers, or if you would like to report an alleged illegal charter operation, please contact the Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Command Center at (415) 399-7300 or

Editor's Note: Click on image above for full-resolution version. The image shows decals the public should look for on a potential charter vessel.  If a charter company takes more than six passengers out on federal waterways, the vessel should have a valid Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection posted in a visible location along with an inspection decal. Smaller passenger vessels carrying six or fewer passengers are not required to have a Certificate of Inspection or an inspection decal, but they are still required to be operated by a person with a valid Coast Guard license.