Coast Guard cautions public against illegal charters in San Diego

united states coast guard 

News Release  

U.S. Coast Guard 11th District PA Detachment San Diego
Contact: Coast Guard PA Detachment San Diego
Office: (619) 278-7025
After Hours: (619) 252-1304
PA Detachment San Diego online newsroom

Coast Guard cautions public against illegal charters in San Diego

coast guard halts illegal charter in san diego

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SAN DIEGO — Coast Guard Sector San Diego and San Diego Harbor Police personnel have completed more than 140 safety boardings in 2021 to identify and terminate unlicensed and illegal charter boat operations along California’s southern coast, with one termination resulting in a civil penalty.

In March, a Coast Guard Sector San Diego crew identified and terminated a 19-foot runabout state-registered vessel for failing to have a credentialed mariner aboard while carrying passengers for hire, insufficient number of life jackets, insufficient lifesaving equipment and loading the vessel beyond the vessel manufacturer’s specifications. 

Through the administrative process, the Coast Guard recommended a civil penalty of $81,286 for the violation of federal laws and disregard for passenger safety.

The primary goal of ending illegal charters in San Diego is to increase passenger safety. Frequent examinations by Coast Guard investigators have identified a direct correlation between maritime passenger fatalities and illegal charters. 

Illegal charter vessel operations pose a threat to passenger safety. An illegal charter operator may dangerously overload a vessel, possess an unlicensed operator that is more likely to engage in negligent operations due to a lack of training, possess inadequate safety and lifesaving equipment and often fails to comply with vessel maintenance and construction standards.

As we head into the busy summer, the Coast Guard Sector San Diego Captain of the Port reminds the public to exercise caution before operating or chartering a vessel. For their safety, charter passengers are asked to consider these key questions:

  • Does the vessel have a credentialed master aboard?
  • Are the master and crew enrolled in a Department of Transportation Drug and Alcohol Testing program?
  • Does the vessel have proper documentation and safety equipment aboard?
  • If carrying more than six passengers, does the chartered vessel hold a Certificate of Inspection issued by the Coast Guard?
  • If it is a bareboat charter rental (one without a crew provided), are you exceeding the maximum of 12 passengers allowed plus the charterer? Are you given the opportunity to select a crew or provide your own crew in order to operate that vessel?

For additional recreational boating safety information, please visit

For information regarding your boating operations or charter regulations, please contact Sector San Diego Investigations Division at (619) 572-2904 or via 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 a potential illegal charter, please contact the Coast Guard Sector San Diego Joint Harbor Operations Center at (619) 278-7033 or