Party Boat Operator Licensing and Inspection Reg Goes Into Effect June 1

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AUSTIN, Texas — A regulation requiring inland party boat operators to be licensed and their vessels inspected goes into effect June 1. A party boat operator license is required of operators of charter vessels more than 30 feet long and carrying more than six passengers on inland waters.

Operators who hold a United States Coast Guard Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV) License, often referred to as a "6-pack license," or a Master’s license issued by the USCG, are exempted.

"Game Wardens will be working throughout the summer to bring all party boats into compliance," said Maj. Alfonso Campos, chief of marine safety enforcement for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "The focus of the regulations is the safety of the passengers. Any party boat operators that have not been contacted are encouraged to call TPWD to make arrangements for operator licensing and inspection of their party boats."

A "party boat" is defined as a vessel operated by the owner or an employee of the owner, and rented or leased for a group recreational event for more than six passengers.

The regulation does not apply to a boat that is less than 30 feet in length, a sailboat, a livery (uncaptained rental) vessel, any vessel used for training or instructional purposes while it is not being used as a party boat.

Most fishing guides will not be affected.

"Basically, anyone who is operating a head boat or charter boat on navigable coastal waters should already be covered by their captain’s license and federal certificate of inspection, if applicable," said Campos. "This regulation is really aimed at making our lakes and reservoirs safer for everyone."

The licensing process involves documented on-the-water experience, independent study and completion of an approved boater education course and a proctored exam, as well as a fee of $125.

Vessel inspections, also $125 and performed by a game warden or authorized inspector, are required annually.

For complete information and party boat operator license and vessel inspection applications, visit the TPWD Web site.

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