A presentation about how to operate a charter business legally in Marina del Rey was given at the Dec. 17 Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors Small Craft Harbor Commission meeting.
MARINA DEL REY—The issue of illegal charters has once again popped up in Marina del Rey. The topic was on the docket for the Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors Small Craft Harbor Commission meeting on Dec. 17.
Department of Beaches and Harbors staff gave a presentative at the meeting about how to operate a legal charter business in the harbor, outlining the two options people interested in running a charter operation in Marina del Rey have. The first requires the potential charter operator to come to a sublease agreement with any of the existing master lease holders in the harbor. The Department of Beaches and Harbors would then need to review the sublease for land use conformance, parking and other policy requirements.
The second option is Dock 55, which staff said was the more streamlined option since it doesn’t require chasing down leaseholders or meeting parking requirements. Dock 55 opened in 2017 and serves as a docking site for boat charter operators, among other things such as dock and dine. Dock 55 is managed by Pacific Ocean Management, which provides potential operators all the information they need to charter out of the location. Operators will need to provide captains licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard, have their boat inspected, provide insurance, provide a valid county business license and provide permits for serving food and alcohol if needed.
Following the presentation, several existing legal charter operators raised concerns about the number of illegal operators in the harbor and how officials were dealing with the problem.
“Our biggest concern as always is what are we doing – we know how to be legal – but what are we doing to stop the illegals,” one charter operator told the commissioners.
Sargent Brent Carlson of the Marina Del Rey sheriff’s station discussed some of the enforcement challenges they face. He said when they get calls about these types of operations, operators sometimes offer passengers onboard free trips or other offerings in exchange for the passengers telling deputies they are the operator’s friends or family members.
“If there’s not proof, it’s hard for us to tell if this is an illegal charter or is this guy going out with his family,” Sgt. Carlson said at the meeting.
Another charter operator raised the issue of safety, saying his crew rescued a passenger from the water in the summer of 2019 that had been aboard an illegal charter.
“I could probably list over 200 illegal charters that can be docked out of Marina del Rey on any given day in the middle of summer,” Mark Sentyrz, owner and operator of Marina del Rey Boat Rentals, told the Commission.
No action on the topic was taken by the Commission.
“I would ask our staff and also the county sheriff’s office to continue to monitor the situation and report back to us,” Commission Chair David Lumian said.
Illegal charters are in ongoing issue in Marina del Rey. According to previous Log reporting from December 2016, staff from Los Angeles County’s Department of Beaches and Harbors and the harbormaster were contemplating performing a sweep or sting operation in hopes of weeding out illegal charter operations. The reporting went on to say Commissioners suggested a task force be put in place at the start of 2017 to begin planning the sting operations.
Marina del Rey is not the only harbor dealing with ongoing issues. San Diego has also grappled with illegal charters for the past several years. This past June, the Coast Guard issued a bulletin specifically citing a recent case where $25,000 in civil penalties were imposed upon a vessel owner for allegedly operating an illegal charter. Operating an illegal charter is a violation of federal passenger vessel requirements and can result in a termination of voyage and civil penalties of up to $59,000 per operation per day for the owner/operator.
The Log will follow up with a more in-depth look at illegal charters in Marina del Rey and what is being done to combat the problem in the following edition of the paper.