Every week I get requests for my availability as captain for a “charter”, often to take out paying passengers. This is followed up by a couple of questions from me:
- Does your boat have all legally-required items?
- Have you taken out paying passengers in the past?
The list of required UPV items is long and is not well known at all. I finally spent quite a bit of time and effort going through the CFRs and compiled a two-page spreadsheet for use by my clients. Actually two versions – one for vessels less that 100 Gross Register Tons (GRT), and another for 100-300 GRT (which are 12-Packs – and require a Master aboard). For the captain who just got their Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV) credential, they would have no idea of the complex regs and would probably unknowingly cut corners anyway – they just want to take some folks fishing on their little Bayliner.
Here is a partial, brief list of what is required for a less than 100 Gross Ton 6-Pack vessel:
- Licensed operator, with original MMC on board (two if overnight)
- Current and original state reg (if LT 5 GRT) or Cert of Documentation, endorsed for Coastwise Trade (NOT Recreational, and MARAD waiver if not US-built)
- Drug & alcohol testing program in effect
- Knowledge of accident reporting requirements
- If greater than 20m – VHF radios, FCC license, Restricted Radio Operator Permit, Class A AIS, other requirements if operated in a VTS (like San Francisco Bay Area)
- Up to date charts, Coast Pilot, Light List, Tide and Current Tables, Navigation Rules
- Navigation lights (Matte black inboard screens if greater than 20m)
- Sound producing device, and bell if over 12m
- Various required placards (oil, pollution, waste management plan)
- Certified marine sanitation device
- Type I PFDs (this is a very common violation – Type II or III not allowed)
- Ring buoy, 20″ OD minimum, orange for ocean routes
- Visual distress signals, not expired
- Fire extinguishers – proper size and quantity
- Blower and backfire flame arrestor for gasoline engines
- Safety orientation made prior to each journey
- Passenger count left ashore
- Emergency instructions posted
- All systems properly engineered and operational
The other area which is a real problem is illegally run charter boats. The USCG defines a “bareboat charter” as one which has a maximum of 12 passengers, and where the charterer assumes full command of the boat. Also, the owner cannot provide the captain and also cannot be aboard.
The popular online boat rental sites like Boatsetter and GetMyBoat have many boats for rent with “captain provided”. This is not allowed, and these sites get around this requirement by having pre-approved captains who can be hired. But, by law, the renter is allowed to use any captain they want or none at all. At most, the owner can specify a minimum qualification for the captain. If an advertisement includes requiring a supplied captain or the owner to be aboard, then it is a UPV and is limited to 6 passengers and all of the items in the above list are required.
It is difficult to comply with the regulations if you don’t know them, and the USCG doesn’t make it too easy to learn what is required. But ignorance of the law is no excuse – violators are subject to a civil penalty fine of $60,000 or more for non-compliance. Feel free to reach out to me if you are considering operating a UPV and want to learn more. Happy to help.