Uber and Lyft can take you to the beach. Don’t count on them for rides beyond the tideline.
That’s the word from the U.S. Coast Guard, which on Tuesday released a statement warning boat owners against trying to use Uber to set up skiff rides.
“Despite (new) concessions for allowing ridesharing services to operate within Alaska, boat owners are not permitted to provide charter services as an Uninspected Passenger Vessel unless they meet pre-existing standards of safety and conduct,” the statement said.
Petty Officer 1st Class John Paul Rios, a spokesman for the 17th Coast Guard District, said the statement is part of a national push: Uber is fine on the roads, but commercial boat service requires more than a smartphone application.
He said he’s not aware of any local cases of someone trying to use ride-sharing services for boat rides, but it’s not unheard of.
Scott Coriell, spokesman for Lyft, said by email that his company doesn’t have any plans for boats. Uber, whose spokesman did not respond to emails, does operate a boat-sharing program on a trial basis in Europe.
An illegal series of “Uber for boats” applications have caused headaches for regulators in south Florida, according to the trade publication Workboat.
The national Passenger Vessel Association, which works at the federal level to lobby for the charter industry, said in its June magazine that “there is a growing trend that is exacerbating the issue of illegal charters.”
That trend involves owners illegally renting their recreation boats to others for profit.
In its statement, the 17th District said anyone using their boat to carry passengers commercially is required to meet strict standards including licensing and reporting, navigation equipment, safety equipment and instruction, pollution prevention and drug testing.
Any “operator, agent, master, owner or individual in charge found in violation of the applicable laws and regulations may be liable for a $5,000 civil penalty per incident,” the Coast Guard said.
The Alaska Legislature made the 49th state the 50th to allow Uber and Lyft to operate when it passed House Bill 132 earlier this year.
Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 523-2258.