San Diego Bay offers a range of exciting activities such as sailing, watersports, and fishing making it a popular destination for charter vessel enthusiasts, but it also has very strict guidelines for local operators. 

In order to operate within San Diego Bay, charter operators must adhere to all state, federal, and local laws, including:

  • Coast Guard licensed captains which include: A Passenger for Hire, Small Passenger Vessel, or Uninspected Passenger Vessel. 
  • Commercial marine liability insurance policy provides coverage for bodily injury, personal injury, and property damage caused by their operations. It is the responsibility of the operator to acquire and maintain this insurance policy.
  • Coast Guard vessel documentation and/or registration
  • Certificate of Inspection from the U.S. Coast Guard
  • Charter vessel documentation and registration 
  • Businesses are obligated to acquire and uphold a business license or certificate from the city in which they are primarily located
  • The vessel must be safe, secure, and seaworthy at all times
  • It is required for charter operations originating from marinas occupied by port tenants and sportfishing landings to prominently display a Charter Vessel Operation decal.
  • Crew manifests – this information shall be made immediately available to Harbor Police/Port and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The utilization of Port public facilities such as boat launches and public docks is strictly prohibited for charter activities. This encompasses the following:

  • The Shelter Island
  • National City
  • Chula Vista boat launch ramps and docks
  • Guest/Visitor’s Dock at the Harbor Police Sub Station at 1401 Shelter Island Drive
  • Dinghy docks

The specific guidelines for charter vessel operations in San Diego Bay and District Tidelands can be found in Section 4.37 of the San Diego Unified Port District (UPD) Code.

For more information click here.

Individuals who fail to comply with the regulations may face potential misdemeanor charges, which could lead to additional fines.

If there are any questions you have that have not been answered in the information provided above, please don't hesitate to email your inquiries to

Additional Resources

  • To obtain a USCG captain license you can reach out to our partner Mariners Learning System.  Use the promo code GETMYBOAT10 for 10% off all products.
  • You can also use our partner Boat Charter Insurance to obtain a commercial insurance policy