By Mark Edward Nero
The US Coast Guard said Feb. 8 that it is ramping up enforcement on Hawaii’s big island in response to a perceived increase in illegal charters operating in the area.
The Coast Guard said it has identified two tour boats operating illegally out of Pohoiki Boat Ramp to view lava streaming into the ocean from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.
Commercial tour boat and charter operators must possess the appropriate merchant mariner credential to operate. Masters of commercial charters operating in state waters are also required by the State of Hawaii to have a permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources and to keep that permit on the vessel.
“Safety is always our top priority,” said Capt. David McClellan, chief of prevention for Coast Guard 14th District. “For boat operators, it is important to maintain situational awareness and not unnecessarily put yourself, your passengers or your boat in danger. For visitors, it’s important they check that their hired boat operators are licensed ensuring they possess the experience and training required to get them to the viewing area and back safely.”
For vessels carrying six or fewer passengers for hire, the operator must possess a Coast Guard-issued operator of uninspected passenger vessel license and operate on near coastal waters not more than 100 miles offshore, as defined in 46 U.S.C. 2101 (42)(B).
For vessels carrying seven or more passengers for hire on vessels less than 100 gross tons (not including auxiliary sail), the operator must possess a Coast Guard-issued master of self-propelled vessel license to operate on near coastal waters. The vessel must also have a Coast Guard-issued certificate of inspection posted in a visible location.
More on information regarding licensing for charter boat captains can be found at https://www.uscg.mil/nmc/credentials/charter_boat_capt/default.asp.