Ben Kinney, JD
As the weather finally warms, Chicagoans are eager to get out on the Lake. If you don’t own a boat yourself, Chicago offers a number of private charter options. Many of these companies offer the formulaic “Uber for boats” services, where riders can book a vessel relatively on-demand and complete with a crew. But before you step on deck, take a moment to consider the following to avoid a nightmare situation.
Operators who take on paying passengers are considered to be a commercial vessels and must be operated by a mariner with a Coast Guard issued license. Operating as a commercial vessel without the required documents and credentials is a violation of federal law, and if caught, the operator could be subject to criminal or civil liability. While a penalty doesn’t necessarily flow to the riders, a discovered violation will certainly end your day on the water.
Last summer, the Coast Guard and Illinois Department of Natural Resources took a hard stance to stop illegal passenger vessel operators. During those operations, fifty percent of stopped vessels were found to be operating illegally on Lake Michigan in the Chicago area.
Passengers have the right to see the captain’s license and Certificate of Inspection to ensure the vessel and captain are certified, and a right to know they are paying for a safe voyage before handing over their money. These quick steps can ensure a safe experience and deter from easily avoidable snafus.
*image cred www.chicago-boat-rentals.com