ST. PETERSBURG — The Coast Guard said it intercepted a charter boat Thursday that was illegally carrying passengers near Maximo Marina.
The Coast Guard said the crew of a 29-foot response boat operating out of Sector St. Petersburg discovered a 33-foot boat operating as an “illegal un-inspected passenger vessel.”
There were eight passengers onboard. The coast guardsmen ended the boat’s trip and escorted the boat and passengers back to Maximo Marina, the agency said. The Coast Guard did not identify the vessel or the crew.
In recent years, two deadly incidents highlighted the dangers of illegal charters in Florida: In 2017, a college student from China and a charter boat company employee died near St. Pete Beach after going overboard from an overloaded, and illegal, charter boat. Then in 2018, a passenger of an illegal charter in Miami was sucked into a boat’s propeller and killed when the unlicensed captain failed to ensure he was back aboard.
The Coast Guard warns consumers to check the Merchant Mariner Credential of a boat operator and make sure the captain is licensed before going aboard. Those who own and operate illegal charter vessels can face maximum civil fines of more than $50,000.
Anyone who wishes to report a suspected illegal charter vessel is asked to call the Coast Guard’s Sector St. Petersburg base at (727) 502-8720.