Budget conference: House, Senate OK millions toward derelict vessel removal

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Officials claim Florida is “plagued” with derelict and abandoned vessels. 

The House and Senate agreed Tuesday to provide $8.2 million toward the removal of derelict vessels in Florida’s waterways.

The appropriation will fund a state-offered removal program that reimburses local governments that pluck eligible vessels out of public waters.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) oversees the program. It claims Florida is “plagued” with derelict and abandoned vessels. 

“These vessels become derelict vessels quickly and then subject the boating public to safety issues, become locations for illegal activity, illegal housing, opportunities for theft and vandalism and ultimately cost the taxpayers to be removed by Local, County or State authorities,” says an FWC website. 

The funding agreement comes after a brief $6.2 million disagreement between the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Agriculture, Environment & General Government Committee. 

The Senate, however, agreed Tuesday to match the House’s higher proposal in its first budget offer. 

It is unclear exactly how many derelict boats are resting in Florida’s waterways, though a First Coast News report said the state was managing 557 active derelict boat cases in 2021.

“A vessel is considered derelict when it is left stored or abandoned in a wrecked, junked or demolished condition on public waters or private property without the consent of the property owner,” explains a Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles webpage.

Notably, boat owners who intentionally abandon a ship may face steep penalties in Florida. According to FWC, intentionally dumping a vessel in state waters is a third-degree felony. Violators may face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine plus the cost of removal. 

“Every vessel owner should realize that there will be an end of life for their vessel,” FWC added. “If they have an opportunity to legally sell the vessel near its end of life, that’s great! If not, the owner must have a plan to properly dispose of the vessel.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis last year signed legislation to address the rise of derelict boats. The bill (SB 1086) empowered law enforcement to take action on at-risk vessels, among other effects. 

Florida considers a vessel at-risk if it is taking on water, breaking loose from its anchor or is without an effective means of propulsion, among other factors.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


One comment

  • Jean Blackwell

    March 6, 2022 at 9:38 am

    This is great we are finally making plans to remove these vessels however; why aren’t we tracing back to owners and charging them! Why is the state having to pay?

Comments are closed.


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