Abandoned Vessels: When Sailboats and Sunset Dreams become Nightmares!
Originally printed in the Lynn Haven Ledger September 21, 2018
The serene allure of life at sea fishing or sailing on Bay County’s sparkling emerald waters is enticing. These inspiring dreams and sounds of ocean waves send many of us off to blissful sleep each night. For other boat owners, the dreams are no longer pleasant or peaceful. They live a conflicted nightmare of uncertainty of how to maintain their boat, or sometimes, just how to get rid of it!
Older or damaged vessels often fall into a precarious state called “At Risk Vessels” when they are no longer properly maintained. These boats are either aground, sunk, or open to weather conditions without pumps and proper equipment to remove water from the vessel. “At Risk” vessels can become “Derelict Vessels” when owners are not known. Designation as a derelict vessel can also occur when a boat owner abandons it and ignores the legal process and does not help to remove their boat from Florida public waters. It is a legal process to declare a vessel “derelict”. Non-compliant derelict vessel owners are subject to criminal violations and fines. See Florida State Statute 823.11 or http://myfwc.com/boating/waterway/derelict-vesselsfor additional details.
Abandoned and derelict vessels can cause problems for other boaters and the environment. Derelict vessels are often a hazard to navigation and can cause safety issues. Removal of these dangerous conditions are a priority for federal, state, and local authorities. Additionally, any derelict vessel can potentially damage the marine environment, even those outside of high traffic areas.
Vessels aground can damage important seagrass and oyster reef habitat. Petroleum products in the form of fuel and hydraulic fluid can cause pollution issues, along with human waste from on-board toilets. All of these must be addressed when these vessels are removed, adding to the costs and damages. A typical 30 – 40ft derelict vessel costs approximately $3,000 – $5,000 to remove! Unattended and unmaintained vessels can also provide mosquito habitat with puddles that provide breeding areas on tarps, decks, and cupholders.
There are several solutions to help boat owners no longer enjoying their vessels. The goal with these programs is to help owners address boat maintenance and ownership challenges before problems escalate into “at risk” or “derelict vessel” categories.
Bay County has annual amnesty days set aside to accept and dispose of unwanted items, including boats. This year’s fall dates are September 21 – 22 from 7am to 4:30pm at the Steelfield Landfill. Important conditions and qualifications apply. The vessels can only be disposed of by the lawful owner. Boats with fuel tanks or motors intact will not be accepted. It is best to call Bay County Solid Waste at 850-236-2212 and review your vessel disposal plan. For other items and “Waste Amnesty Day” details visit http://www.co.bay.fl.us/520/Waste-Amnesty-Days
Another disposal option is a title transfer to a responsible salvager who will assist in vessel removal by taking ownership for the purpose of disposal. Florida Fish and Wildlife and Bay County can assist owners in planning and identifying these options. For assistance you can call Bay County Planning and Zoning at 850-248-8250 or UF/IFAS Extension Bay County at 850-784-6105.
An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Nick T. Place, Dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.