Every passenger-carrying boat operating “for hire” is required to be under the
command of a USCG-licensed captain.
Not every charter vessel needs to be Coast Guard inspected, however. The Coast
Guard allows any vessel to operate on an uninspected basis, but they are limited
to a maximum of 6 passengers.
Additionally, the operators of uninspected charter
boats are still required to have a valid Coast Guard-issued “Captain’s” license.
Such vessels must also meet the minimum Federal requirements for onboard safety
equipment such as personal floatation devices (life jackets), flares,
horns/bells, and fire extinguishers.
Advisory 1: BEWARE OF UNLICENSED or UNINSPECTED CHARTER BOATS
SAY CHARTER BOAT OPERATORS
The Coast Guard, under its authority of the Code of Federal
Regulations, Chapter 46, Sub-Chapter “T,” classifies charter boats in two
“Inspected Vessels” and “Uninspected Vessels.”
undergo a thorough yearly inspection, carry extra safety gear and are subject to
requirements for conducting regular safety drills and random drug testing for
Uninspected passenger vessels operate without regular inspections or
training requirements; some local operators, such as “MEETINGS AFLOAT!” of Reddington Beach, operate primarily as commercial/charter vessels and, thus,
maintain a higher standard of regular maintenance, crew training/experience and
safety systems than most private yachts.
Of particular concern to local charter operators is the use of
Their concern stems from the fact that visitors signing a
demise agreement may not fully understand their responsibilities and liabilities
under this type of contract. Specifically, under a demise contract, the charter
assumes almost full responsibility and substantial liability for the operation
of the vessel. Frequently, these responsibilities and potential liabilities are
not explained to the potential charterer, who remains “on the hook” despite
their lack of knowledge. An additional factor is that the
“private-turned-commercial” boat’s insurance may not cover it for charter
service, which could, again, leave the charter extremely vulnerable in the event
of an accident. In 99% of cases this would be true. Do you think the
insurance company is going to pay out in an accident case if is was unaware that
the vessel was being used commercially?
Unless a vessel is Coast Guard Inspected and Certified, it may only carry 6
passengers, no matter the size of the vessel. In the event of a ‘Bareboat Demise
Charter Contract’, the limit is 12 passengers. Per the Coast Guard, there are
many stringent aspects of an acceptable ‘Bareboat Demise Contract’, some of
which are very difficult to accomplish. Briefly, they are:
- The charter takes complete
possession of the vessel, operating it as if it were their own.
- The charterer becomes the owner for most legal purposes, such as the
- Assumes nearly total liability for the vessel’s operation.
- Charter must provide a qualified Captain/crew
- Responsibility for pollution clean up, and any other liability normally
flowing to a vessel owner.
Guest may NOT pay individually or contribute by ‘paying for gas’,
bring food, etc.
Advisory 2: BEWARE OF UNLICENSED or UNINSPECTED CHARTER BOATS
SAY CHARTER BOAT OPERATORS
The most important distinction is personal liability when
entering into a ‘Bareboat Demise Contract’.
An additional chartering consideration is that a yacht that does not get
underway, i.e. remaining docked, is still subject to the Coast Guard’s passenger
limitations. According to LT Matt Dooris, Senior Investigating Officer for
Sector St. Petersburg in Tampa, a vessel may required to be
USCG-certified if the vessel carries more than 6 passengers-for-hire, even if it
remains docked. Certain exemptions may apply, including the exception under a “bareboat”
contract where the passenger limit is 12 persons.