On Sunday, the adventure ended for the seven people aboard Shared Adventure, which, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, was operating illegally as a charter boat. This was the latest in a continuing nationwide crackdown that began more than a year ago and focuses heavily on Florida.
The 47-foot catamaran was stopped for a safety check, when the Coast Guard boarding party learned the ship's papers were not in order.
In cases such as these, owner-operators are typically charged with failure to carry a Certificate of Inspection, not having a credentialed mariner in control, employment of an individal without an appropriate license, failure to have a drug and alcohol control program and failure to have a valid stability letter. Civil fines for these violations can reach up to $60,000, but sometimes criminal charges arre filed.
In April 2018, a passenger on the 91-foot Miami Vice was killed in the water by the boat's props. An unqualifed captain of an illegal charter vessel was unaware that he had a man in the water when he got underway. The owner later pleaded guilty to criminal misconduct in connection with the fatal accident.
In September 2018 Coast Guard crews boarded 172 boats in a multi-state sweep, and the crackdown began in earnest.
Workboat reported on two other criminal convictions earlier this year.
In February Randy Postma, 71, of Davie, Fla., was sentenced by a federal judge to three years of probation, including six months of home confinement, and a criminal fine of $4,000 for operating his 147 foot Golden Touch II as a commercial charter, in defiance of a Coast Guard captain of the port order to desist. But Postma was not the first – nor by far the biggest punishment.
That distinction went to Seth Allen Gissen, who was sentenced in January to a $96,000 fine, five years of probation, and a judge’s requirement that he stay off any vessel. Gissen ran an unlicensed and uninspected party boat operation on his Maritimo M60 convertible sportfish boat No Rules II, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern Florida and the Coast Guard. With its large foredeck and accommodations the No Rules II was the scene of big parties, documented on social media.
Authorities say the rise of the Internet and social media have made it easy for illegal charters to advertise, but have not made it any easier for customers to recognize the difference between legitimate and illigitimate operations.