CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (WVEC) -- The Coast Guard is encouraging tourists to check that charter boat captains are licensed and operating boats that have been inspected.

Officials say passengers should ask the boat's captain to show an original Coast Guard license. A boat is required to be inspected by the Coast Guard if it carries more than six passengers and the certificate should be clearly visible.

Coast Guard is sending out the warning as they say illegal charter boats pose a number of risks:

  • They may not carry proper lifesaving and firefighting equipment
  • Very few unlicensed vessels meet the minimum required federal standards for machinery, hull construction, wiring, stability, safety railings, or navigation equipment
  • The crews of illegal charter boats are not subject to pre-employment or random drug testing

Officials also say licensed charter boats are not required by federal law to carry insurance. Passengers should ask whether the boat is insured as a passenger vessel. If not, passengers may be unable to pursue a claim if they are injured while aboard.

The civil penalty is up to $1,100 for a first violation. The Coast Guard can seek to revoke or suspend the license of a Coast Guard licensed captain who carries more than six passengers.