Encounters with the Coast Guard are sometimes sudden - and many yachtsmen are afraid of this event. Let's talk about what to do in such a situation!
Security and control
For those who are just going to conquer the seas and oceans, we will briefly explain what the Coast Guard is. The Coast Guard monitors the safety of all ships in the area, as well as the crews that are on them. Yachts are also under their responsibility, so meeting with representatives of the law, although relatively rare, is very likely.
Many even relatively experienced skippers are not very fond of checks from the coast guard, but if you have not broken the law, then there is nothing to be afraid of. The Coast Guard is required to conduct regular inspections of ships and boats, but in practice this happens quite rarely.
Most likely, the check you may encounter will be completely random and selective. Some yachtsmen have even encountered such an event several times in their entire careers. However, preliminary preparation for the meeting will save you from a frantic search for documents or other troubles.
What can the Coast Guard do?
Much, but within their powers. The Coast Guard is not a police force, much less a military. The Coast Guard has specific powers that you would also like to know in order to protect your rights if necessary.
The Coast Guard can:
– to board the yacht/boat;
- demand the presentation of documents with their further verification;
- issuing fines
– to demand the return of the yacht to the marina or port for repair or maintenance;
– check the skipper for alcohol intoxication.
Again, if you have not stolen a boat or are not transporting prohibited substances and there is no orientation for you, then most likely your documents will simply be checked. Usually yachts and other vessels are checked at the entrance to the port, crossing the border or places important for national security along the coast.
However, the Coast Guard will not stop you from checking anything if you are suspected of breaking the law. In this case, be prepared to meet guests at the anchorage or at your place in the marina.
What to do during inspection?
Most likely, your screening will develop according to the following scenario. To begin with, representatives of the Coast Guard will contact you by radio. If for some reason you do not respond, then a small dinghy or boat will be sent after you. By the way, as an option, I can signal my intentions to you differently - give a signal with a blue light or a siren.
After that, you should stop the boat. The main thing here is to choose an unoccupied place on the water and calmly stop. If they come to you on a boat, then go to it. Once law and order are on board, communication should be conducted calmly and with respect. Once again, it's not worth being rude and rude.
When the coast guard is already on deck, it is worth gathering the crew on deck in one place. If each member of the team with documents is in their cabins, then this will only delay the verification process. Further, most likely, the procedure of verification of documents will follow. This usually ends the check, you are wished a fair wind and you continue your cruise.
If defects or any problems are found on the boat, then you will receive recommendations for their elimination. The most common problem on board is the lack of life-saving equipment. It is better to immediately return to the port or go to the nearest one and buy the missing equipment. If you ignore and are caught again in this violation, you will receive a fine. The Coast Guard keeps a record of offenses, so it's best not to push your luck.
The duration of the check is also situational. If you have all the documents prepared in advance, there are no problems with the boat and rescue equipment, the check will take from 10 to 30 minutes.
What will the Coast Guard be looking for?
The Coast Guard will look for illegal or prohibited items and goods aboard your boat. First of all, they will check the presence of weapons on board and the relevant documents for the use of it, if it is present on board.
Then, of course, they will look for drugs and similar substances. Also, for an exorbitant amount of alcohol, you can fly into a fine or even an article, because inspectors may consider it to be smuggling. Safety equipment will also be checked: life jackets, rafts, etc., signaling devices and radio stations.
The crew will be checked with all the necessary documents. The skipper, as already mentioned above, can be checked on a breathalyzer. Of the interesting and unexpected - checking waste and bathrooms. Some countries are very closely monitoring compliance with the rules for the disposal of black and gray water. In Turkey, it is better not to release black water into the sea, otherwise you will be fined.
The best preparation for a meeting with the Coast Guard is the preparation of documents. It is unlikely that the inspector will study absolutely all your documents, but it is better to have them on hand just in case.
Shortlist of the most important documents to have in quick access:
– documents for the boat from the charter company (insurance and hedgehog with it);
– if you cross the border, then confirmation of registration in another country;
– crew list;
– personal documents of the crew;
– international passport of the crew;
- skipper's license;
- license for radio operator.
Documents are best kept in a secure but relatively accessible place. For example, somewhere near the chart table.
Waiting and being afraid of verification, provided you comply with the law, is a waste of time. Once you have prepared and collected all the documents, you will ensure a calm voyage.
Sometimes there are situations when the coast guard should be called on your own. This is especially true when you are going on a difficult and long journey or are going to make a solo trip. You should report such movements to the Coast Guard in advance. If for some reason you stop communicating or do not reach your destination, the Coast Guard will be the first to go looking for you.
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