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Abandoned Vessel Claims Process

An abandoned vessel is included in the definition of "abandoned property," which is tangible personal property that does not have an identifiable owner and has been disposed on public property in a wrecked, inoperative, or partially dismantled condition or has no apparent intrinsic value to the rightful owner.

Please see the following FAQs regarding the claims process for abandoned vessels.


No. It is a crime in Florida to take an abandoned vessel without first getting title to it. Failure to comply with Section 705.103, Florida Statutes could result in fines or even jail time.

The first required step is to report a suspected abandoned vessel to a law enforcement agency. To determine the owner of the vessel, the law enforcement agency will collect a fee and begin an investigation per Section 705.103, Florida Statutes. If the vessel is not claimed during the process of the investigation, the law enforcement agency may allow the transfer to the finder with evidence of the investigation and a copy of the Lost or Abandoned Property Certificate FWCDLE-003. The finder would then apply to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to have the title put into their name.

Procedures for acquiring such title are outlined in VSTL-29 of the Florida DHSMV. NOTE: The investigation referred to in this document must be completed by a law enforcement agency.

The investigation process usually takes between 45 days to 120 days or longer. The cost associated with the investigation is usually between $300 and $600. Costs may may vary, though, depending on investigation requirements.

Once title has been transferred into your name, you become legally responsible for the vessel. If its condition were to become derelict, you would be held responsible. Derelict vessel owners can face civil and criminal penalties, including jail time.

No. Taking parts without obtaining title is considered theft and would subject a person to criminal charges.

In most cases the answer would be no. Due to an ongoing criminal investigation and condition of the vessel, it is not suitable for the claims process. However, in some cases, with the approval of the investigating officer, derelict vessels may be claimed.