The Coast Guard and partner agencies increased patrols to deter illegal charter operations in South Carolina and Georgia during Operation PAX Defender, a week-long Coast Guard initiative to prevent illegal charter operations during the holiday weekend.
During the operation, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Coast Guard boat crews from Station Charleston, Brunswick, and Tybee Island increased patrols to deter illegal charter operations which included:
- 16 boardings throughout South Carolina
- 10 boardings throughout Georgia
- A total of two non-illegal operation violations by South Carolina DNR
- One illegal passenger operation violation by South Carolina DNR
- Walked the docks of four Charleston marinas
“While the results of this weekend’s operation highlight the successful efforts of multiple Coast Guard crews and state and local partners throughout the region, illegal charter operators should know that our teams are on patrol 24/7,” said Cmdr. Kevin Beck, Prevention Department Head, Sector Charleston. “As always, we will continue to ensure commercial charters are in compliance with safety regulations and pursue enforcement penalties, when necessary. It is imperative that everyone who is looking to charter a vessel understand that they are fully within their right to verify that the operator has a USCG’s captain’s license and that the vessel has current safety certificates if it is required to be inspected.”
In the weekend prior to Operation PAX Defender starting, Miami-based Coast Guard units terminated three separate illegal charter vessels: The Blessed, The Golden Touch II and the It’s All Good.
While Operation PAX Defender was underway, the owner of the 147-foot yacht Golden Touch II was arrested for violating the Captain of the Port Order placed on the vessel after it was operating an illegal charter August 20.
“The Golden Touch II case highlights how seriously the Coast Guard and our partner agencies take illegal charters,” said Capt. Michael Fazio, staff judge advocate, Coast Guard 7th District. “This is more than a simple misuse of a private vessel. These owners and operators are putting at risk the lives of the people they embark and will be held legally liable.”
Owners and operators of an illegal charter vessel can face maximum civil penalties of $41,456 for illegal passenger-for-hire operations.