Charter captain upset with 1920s-era maritime law

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An arcane maritime law has charterboat captains in northern Ohio talking and is turning them toward Washington to resolve a bureaucratic and maritime mess.

The Coastwise Trade Act was written in 1920 to give the country’s maritime industry national security and economic protection. The law says that if commercial boats of a certain size want to operate in the United States they must be built there and the owners have to prove that they comply.

A report by The Plain Dealer tells the story of Ohio fisherman Santos Livas, who was returning from a charter trip on Lake Erie last month when the Coast Guard pulled alongside his boat, Bad Influence, and demanded to see his licenses and other papers.

Livas told The Plain Dealer he complied despite his displeasure at being stopped in three-foot waves, with the Coast Guard boat “smacking the side.”

But it was a single paper he could not produce that drew a threat of a $40,000 fine and as much as $500,000 if stopped again, plus legal fees and lost charter revenue.

“The guy came up and said I was in violation and my boat would not be able to leave the dock” once it moored, Livas said. “Right in front of my customers, he told me I was running illegal charters, bootleg charters.”

Click here for the full report.


4 comments on “Charter captain upset with 1920s-era maritime law

  1. Bob

    Its interesting if you follow the link and read the article. Whatever happened to the concept: innocent until proven guilty? If the USCG wants to spend time proving that your boat was built out of the country, then let them spend their time doing that. Why is the onus on the captain to carry the piece of paper proving that the boat was manufactured in the country?

    The owner made some comment about that everyone knows where Sportcrafts were made. I didn’t know. The USCG can’t be expected to just know where every boat is made. But they should have to prove that the boat was not made in the US, rather then the owner having to prove that it was made in the US.

  2. Bob

    I just talked to a friend that is a 6 pack captain. He was telling me that USCG Vessel Documentation requires a certificate from the builder. He was aware of that law when he became a captain and so he documented his vessel. Many of the other charter captains didn’t want to go through the paperwork of being documented. Now it’s biting them in the ass.

  3. christopher Kuebler

    All the CG had to do was look at the HIN on the vessel’s hull to determine who the builder was, whether a US builder built the boat and where it was built. The HIN is the COAST GUARD’s OWN system for authenticating vessel pedigree.

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