"Rideshare for Boats" Expands in American Markets

The Costalyfe app (courtesy Costalyfe)

By MarEx 2016-01-01 14:39:08

Licensed charter boat operators and authorities in Florida are growing concerned over the rise of a new on-demand, app-based ridesharing industry for watercraft.

Traditional charter owners with the Key West Charter Boats Association have asked for the assistance of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission in cutting down on unlicensed competition. The FWC has brought on a specialist to search through listings on the new rideshare platforms, and “if we find people using these apps to run unlicensed trips we will cite them. We have already sent some people on charters,” said FWC officer Captain David Dipre, speaking to Workboat.

Boat owners and local authorities aren't the only ones concerned with the new business practice. Unlicensed passenger carriage, or carriage in excess of permitted numbers, may expose captains to fines of up to $35,000, the U.S. Coast Guard warns. Drug testing requirements for certain operators apply as well. The USCG has recently assigned marine enforcement units to weekend patrols for unlicensed for-hire passenger craft in the state.

The boatshare services causing so much disruption are still new on the scene, with several start-ups launched just this year.

Homegrown companies like BoatDay, which started in July, offer Floridians and visitors the chance to get out on the water without incurring the costs of boat rentals. BoatDay claims that its per-person cost structure is “almost always cheaper than other boating options.”

Like shoreside rideshare operators, BoatDay promises security and convenience for both parties in the transaction, in addition to a low price. Passengers get prearranged trip service from a captain who has been rated by previous clients and has passed an extensive background check. They can view his or her licensing and qualifications on a profile page. Boat operators get excess liability coverage, including $500,000 for passenger injury, plus on-the-water assistance while on the job.

The firm recently scored a PR coup with a partnership offering the use of Uber rideshare to get to and from a BoatDay outing.

In Tampa, competitor Costalyfe aims at timely transportation rather than prescheduled outings, with a per-mile cost structure broken down into two boat size categories, similar to Uber's multi-tiered, on-demand services. Boat operators will keep 80 percent of the $7 base fee plus $3 per mile for the 18-25 foot vessel class.

The concept extends beyond Miami and Tampa, too. Earlier in the year, Uber pioneered a hail-by-app motorboat service across the Bosporus in Istanbul. "If we can get you a car in five minutes, we can get you anything in five minutes," said Austin Kim, the area manager for the firm. And global app-based operations like GetMyBoat broker all sorts of lease transactions, from bareboat charters to captained ridesharing. GetMyBoat now has participating boat owners of 27,000 watercraft in 110 countries worldwide.