The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(WASHINGTON) — The Coast Guard would like to remind small passenger vessel operators of the critical requirement to ensure crewmembers performing safety-sensitive duties are properly enrolled in a drug and alcohol testing program and also of the importance of maintaining accurate passenger accountability.

A recent casualty investigation conducted by members of the Coast Guard Investigation Division at Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach revealed that small passenger vessels, particularly those involved in dive charters, are engaging in a dangerous practice of informally asking friends and “frequent fliers” to perform safety-sensitive functions aboard vessels in exchange for free trips.

Operators are reminded that Title 46 CFR Part l6 requires that any person fulfilling safety-sensitive functions must be enrolled in a drug and alcohol testing program meeting the Department of Transportation requirements, including the verification of a negative pre-employment drug test prior to the individual performing safety-sensitive duties. Furthermore, it is the master’s responsibility to ensure that those who are expected to perform safety-sensitive functions are fully aware of their responsibilities as it relates to the operation of the vessel and the safety of passengers. A crewmember must also remain aboard the vessel at all times during the voyage if they are required to be aboard by the vessel’s certificate of inspection, except in the case of an emergency.

Small passenger vessel operators are also reminded that Title 46 CFR Part 185.504 requires the master of a vessel to keep a correct, written count of all passengers that embark or disembark the vessel. Coast Guard Capt. Jennifer Williams, commander, Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach and officer in charge of marine inspections, expects that small passenger vessels serving as diving platforms for dive operations take all reasonable and prudent actions to ensure that every passenger aboard is accounted for before the vessel departs each dive site.

It is strongly recommended that dive boats maintain a written roster that includes the diver’s full name and the time the diver entered and exited the water. In addition, the roster should be verified with a verbal and visual confirmation of the diver prior to the vessel departing a dive site. Ultimately, it is the master’s responsibility to ensure that all passengers are safely accounted for.

The Coast Guard will pursue enforcement action against any marine employers and/or master that is found negligent in ensuring their vessel is fully compliant with manning requirements and the maintenance of passenger safety and accountability.

For more information, contact Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Menefee, chief, Investigation Division, Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach at 310-521-3777, or for more information on the U.S. Coast Guard drug testing requirements for commercial vessels, click here.