Boat captains for hire: No license, no problem says Coast Guard

Investigations

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A company offering captains for hire is not required to make sure the boat operators it advertises are Coast Guard certified.

The Coast Guard requires licensed captains to operate boats for charter companies offering sunset cruises and tours.

But the owner of a recreational boat can do whatever he or she wants with their personal property, including putting the lives of the owner and passengers in the hands of someone with no license.

On a day like Saturday, with bumper to bumper boats expected for the Gasparilla invasion of Tampa, the Coast Guard warns one wrong move can be fatal.

“Tomorrow is not the day for a rookie captain,” said Coast Guard Public Affairs Supervisor Michael De Nyse.

We’ve learned you don’t even need to be a rookie captain to be hired to drive someone’s private recreational boat.

The Coast Guard claims you don’t need any credentials.

That opened the hatch for Zach Hatraf and his new company, Anchor Pier-to-Pier Boat Charters, to set up business.

“In order to drive somebody else’s boat, to be a skipper for hire, it doesn’t require a captain’s license,” explained Hatraf.

Hatraf is the CEO of a company that provides captains for hire.

We found not everyone advertised on the company’s website as a captain, is indeed a captain.

Commercial charter companies that do business with paying passengers fall under one set of rules and regulations.

“You have to be Coast Guard licensed first,” explained Commander Bill Walsh. ” You cannot take money for hire unless you have a Coast Guard license.”

When it comes to hiring someone to drive your own personal boat, there’s a whole different set of rules, or lack of.

The Coast Guard doesn’t consider paying someone to drive your boat commercial.

Even though hiring them through Anchor costs $50 dollars an hour, $4 dollar an hour minimum.

If you’re a paying passenger, the Coast Guard requires your captain be licensed and that the boat you’re on is equipped with certain safety features. But when it comes to the person you pay to operate your boat, there is no such regulation.

If you know of something that you think should be investigated, call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.

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