The U.S. Coast Guard halted the voyage of 147-foot M/Y Golden Touch II near Nixon Beach in Miami, Florida, on August 19 after discovering several safety issues aboard the yacht.
The vessel was carrying more paying passengers than they were certified to carry with 47 people aboard, according to a U.S. Coast Guard press release. Law enforcement also discovered several violations — the vessel did not have a valid Certificate of Inspection, failed to have a drug and alcohol program, and a valid stability letter.
Several people have lost their lives on illegal charters in the U.S. in the last few years — two men drowned during a day charter aboard M/Y Jaguar in the Tampa Bay area in early 2017 and a young man was killed by a propeller aboard M/Y Miami Vice in Miami in April 2018.
The owner and operator of Golden Touch II faces maximum civil penalties amounting up to $41,456 for the illegal passenger for hire operation.
“The unsafe atmospheres that these types of companies and unlicensed captains, who knowingly engage in illegal activity, create on their boats show a complete disregard for passenger safety and have been responsible for multiple deaths in Florida alone,” says Capt. Ladonn Allen, chief of Coast Guard seventh district prevention department. “We cannot stress enough to anyone looking to charter a boat to verify the captain’s license and safety of the vessel.”
Five days after the U.S. Coast Guard halted the voyage of M/Y Golden Touch II on August 19, they issued an official order to the vessel to stop running illegal charters, the Miami Herald reports.
On September 2, M/Y Golden Touch II was docked at Seaspice Brasserie and Lounge on the Miami River when agents raided the vessel. Owner Randy Frank Postma was arrested and charged with disobeying orders to not run an illegal charter operation.
The local paper reports that an undercover agent paid to cruise with Postma on August 31, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court. During the voyage, the Coast Guard boarded the yacht, and prosecutors say Postma’s wife and an employee instructed passengers to say they had not paid for the voyage. The three undercover agents on board did not break cover and the boat was let off.
But on September 2, the undercover agent who had previously chartered the boat returned to the vessel, which was docked at the brasserie. For four hours, guests partied before the agent reportedly mentioned that the Coast Guard was on the way.