Here’s why the US Coast Guard is targeting illegal charter boats


The driver of the 17ft boat who was arrested by the USCG was slapped with a $10,000 fine

PORTLAND, OR (KOIN) – The 17ft boat that was arrested and cited by the US Coast Guard for allegedly operating as an illegal charter along the Willamette River on October 6 was the first boat to be cited for illegal charter activity in the Portland area this year.

The enforcement, according to the USCG, was the result of officials working to crack down on illegal charters across the country.

USCG 13th District spokesman Travis Magee told KOIN 6 News the citation was issued to the owner of the boat, who allegedly gave two people an illegal sightseeing tour near Oregon City when the USCG stepped in. The unnamed owner received a $10,000 fine and an order from the harbor master restraining him from using the boat for commercial purposes.

USCG officials could increase the fine to a maximum of $103,200 at a scheduled civil penalty hearing.

“Although this is the first detection of an illegal charter this year in Portland, it is a common problem in the United States,” Magee said. “The Coast Guard is always on the lookout for illegal charters to promote boater safety.”

Magee said illegal charters are a growing problem in the Portland area and pose a significant danger to passengers and other boaters. When asked why the USCG considers illegal charters so dangerous, Magee said they create an increased risk of boating accidents.

“In general, the Coast Guard sees a much lower accident rate with vessels operated by licensed captains,” he said. “Illegal charters pose a serious risk to their passengers and to other boat operators on the water. We are redoubling our efforts to combat illegal charters to prevent loss of life and promote safety on our waterways.

Annual boating incident and fatality data from the Oregon State Marine Board. | Courtesy of OSMB

The Oregon State Marine Board provides annual data on boating incidents and fatalities. However, these statistics only include recreational boating incidents and do not include fatalities or accidents that occur on commercial rental boats.

According to these data, the number of navigational incidents fell sharply last year. In 2020, the Oregon State Marine Board recorded 91 boating incidents statewide, including 26 fatalities. In 2021, there were 48 incidents and 19 deaths.

As the USCG seeks to end illegal charters, the average law-abiding boater is always welcome to bring friends and family for a day on the water. This includes anyone with pre-existing relationships who can pool money for gas or boat related activities.

“The Coast Guard is not interested in ruining anyone’s weekend,” Magee said.

However, if a transaction is made between a passenger and a boat operator for charter services, the USCG says it must be done in accordance with regulations governing passenger ships. Operators interested in obtaining a charter boat captain license can complete the application process on the USCG website.

“Americans reasonably expect that when they pay for a boat trip, the operator will be trained and competent,” Magee said. “Any body of water, rivers, lakes and oceans are dynamic environments, and when things go wrong, the captain of the ship is responsible for the safety of the crew and passengers. The Coast Guard is responsible for ensuring that captains of vessels are trained, randomly tested, and operate safely.


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