Miami-Dade County

Coast Guard makes three illegal charter operations busts in waters near Ultra Festival

Two new 33-foot special purpose craft from Coast Guard Station South Padre Island, Texas, pause briefly during familiarization training in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The new boats have a top speed of over 50 knots and are intended to enhance the station’s law enforcement capabilities. These vessels were involved in stopping two illegal charter operations near the AmericanAirlines Arena in Biscayne Bay on March 29, 2019.
Two new 33-foot special purpose craft from Coast Guard Station South Padre Island, Texas, pause briefly during familiarization training in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The new boats have a top speed of over 50 knots and are intended to enhance the station’s law enforcement capabilities. These vessels were involved in stopping two illegal charter operations near the AmericanAirlines Arena in Biscayne Bay on March 29, 2019. U.S. Coast Guard

The Ultra Music Festival on Virginia Key has led to more than just crowds on the streets of Miami. The waters of Biscayne Bay are churning, too.

The hopping Ultra festival has led to an increased presence on the water by the U.S. Coast Guard. As a result, there were two busts for illegal charter operations on Friday and Saturday, according to Coast Guard Sector Miami. The apprehensions ensnared three boats and 36 people in the two instances.

The Coast Guard “terminated the voyage” of a 27-foot pleasure craft with 12 people aboard Friday near downtown Miami’s AmericaAirlines Arena and a 36-foot pleasure craft with 12 passengers aboard Saturday after discovering multiple safety violations, according to the Coast Guard’s Southeast Division.

AmericanAirlines Arena is one of the locations where shuttle buses are staged to transport Ultra ticket holders to and from the island on Virginia Key.

The Coast Guard also boarded of a 55-foot pleasure craft named Sea Raven that had 12 people aboard on Friday near the Marine Stadium, the site of Ultra’s main stage.

The Coast Guard Station Miami’s 33-foot Special Purpose Craft—Law Enforcement boat crew boarded the 27-foot pleasure craft Friday and discovered numerous violations. These included: not having a valid Certificate of Inspection. Not having a credentialed mariner in control while operating a small passenger vessel. Failure to have a drug and alcohol program. Failure to have a valid stability letter.

The Sea Raven vessel and its crew were stopped and cited for lacking the valid Certificate of Inspection, and failure to have a drug and alcohol program and a valid stability letter.

Another Station Miami boat crew boarded the 36-foot pleasure craft on Saturday and discovered the same three violations as the ones listed on Friday’s Sea Raven apprehension.

“We want everyone to have fun out on the water, but safety is the number one priority,” said Cmdr. Bradley Clare, prevention department head at Coast Guard Sector Miami, in a news release.

The Coast Guard did not say whether the people on board were Ultra attendees.

But Cmdr. Jason Aleksak, chief of response at Coast Guard Sector Miami, said in a statement: “With the Ultra Music Festival taking place this weekend, the Coast Guard, along with our state and local partners, will have an increased presence on the water focused on safety, boating under the influence and illegal charters.”

Owners and operators of illegal charter vessels can face maximum civil penalties of $58,389 for illegal passenger-for-hire operations.

The Coast Guard said other fines can include:

Up to $18,477 for failure of an inspected vessel to be under the control of an individual with the appropriate Coast Guard license.

Up to $7,250 for failure of operators to be enrolled in a chemical testing program.

Up to $4,685 for failure to provide a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for vessels carrying more than six passengers.

Up to $15,995 for failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over five gross tons.

And up to $11,712 for failure to have been issued a valid Stability Letter prior to placing vessel in service with more than six passengers.

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Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.


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