NORWALK, Conn. – Operators of a Mississippi-style river boat have requested the use of the Veterans Park Visitor’s Dock Sunday, although the vessel has not yet had the dive survey of its hull required by the United States Coast Guard.
Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound Investigations Division Chief Dawn Kallen was unaware, when a Wednesday phone call from NancyOnNorwalk began, that Ken Hart of Sound Charter Group is apparently planning to take the Island Belle out Sunday.
Kallen said Hart had the routine annual inspection of the boat done earlier this week, but he has not had the dive survey done, which was ordered in February after the Coast Guard received complaints about the boat being aground in its mooring at O&G Industries at low tide, she said.
“Bottom line, and he knows, he cannot carry passengers for hire until the Coast Guard receives the survey,” Kallen said, before being informed that the Island Belle has requested the use of the dock for commercial purposes on May 25.
That planned use is according to Recreation and Parks Department Director Mike Mocciae.
A dive survey of the hull is standard practice and required in the event of a grounding, Kallen said.
“We’ve told him, and specifically mentioned it to him today, that until the Coast Guard receives that report and approves it he can’t carry passengers for hire,” she said. “… He understands what the Coast Guard’s requirement is. He’s been told. He’s been notified. There will be consequences if he does actually take the vessel out with passengers on board.”
Harbor Management Commissioner John Romano said Tuesday that he had heard that Hart doesn’t necessarily have paying customers. He may be taking friends out, Romano said.
Hart has been asked by O&G operations manager Richard Warren to relocate the vessel.
Hart did not return an email asking when the Island Belle would be relocated. He said in a recent email that the Island Belle is legally docked at O&G.
Harbor Master Mike Griffin said Tuesday that the vessel continues to block barge traffic on the river — or, as he put it, transportation companies are refusing to “bring waterborne commerce.”
He did not know when the Island Belle would be relocated. He said he won’t know “until the day that it happens.”
The agreement to govern the operating relationship between a commercial vessel and the city regarding use of the Veterans Park dock had not been worked out as of Tuesday evening.