What is an abandoned vessel?
An abandoned vessel is included in the definition of "abandoned property," which is tangible personal property that does not have an identifiable owner and that has been disposed on public property in a wrecked, inoperative, or partially dismantled condition or has no apparent intrinsic value to the rightful owner. Abandoned vessels are a concern because they can become derelict vessels quickly and then pose safety issues and become locations for illegal activity. Removal of derelict vessels is necessary but can be an additional burden for taxpayers.
Vessel owners should realize there is an end of life for their vessel. Vessels can be sold, however, if that's not an option, the owner must have a plan to legally dispose of it. Having the vessel transported to an approved landfill costs much less than removing a submerged vessel. It's also a more responsible option for the environment as well as the safety of others and can prevent legal issues for the vessel owner.
Illegal Ways to Dispose a Vessel
- Sinking a vessel without Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps Engineers approval and permitting.
- Discarding a vessel by letting it drift away.
- Grounding and leaving a vessel at a boat ramp.
- Mooring it without any plan to continue its upkeep and maintenance.
- Burning the vessel in open water to destroy it.
- Giving it to someone without properly transferring title and ownership.
Intentionally dumping your vessel on the waters of Florida is a 3rd degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. It can also result in restitution to the state for the later cost of removal, fines, community service, probation or parole, lost registration privileges, and continued litigation for repayment in full.
Florida Vessel Turn-In Program
If you have received a written citation or a warning for your vessel being at risk, you can voluntarily surrender it to the FWC through its Vessel Turn-In Program (VTIP). Surrendered vessels will be removed from Florida waters and destroyed at no cost to the owner. This program allows vessels to be removed before they become derelict and allows vessel owners to avoid liability and legal issues.
Learn how to qualify and apply at MyFWC.com/VTIP.