FWC continues to assess thousands of vessels 1 month after Hurricane Ian landfall
Hurricane Ian displaced over 7,000 vessels on both land and water. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has deployed a second wave of officers to join local FWC personnel and partner agencies in assessing these vessels. Since the assessment process began, the FWC has received hundreds of calls on its Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline (850-488-5600) and has assessed over 2,100 vessels displaced on state waters Research teams are contacting owners and insurance companies to provide information, guidance and reunite vessel owners with their property.
“Wave One of the FWC Displaced Vessel Deployment Team returned home after a very productive two weeks in the field. This group of 16 dedicated officers worked long hours on the waters of Lee County, locating derelict vessels and contacting owners. Wave Two is now in place and will carry on with the mission,” said FWC Boating and Waterways Section Representative Capt. Travis Franklin. “I’m proud of the work accomplished by these officers as they help reunite owners with their boats, while facilitating the removal of derelict vessels from our waterways.”
This week, Governor Ron DeSantis announced efforts to expedite identifying and removing vessels and debris from the area affected by Hurricane Ian. The FWC is working closely with the Division of Emergency Management, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Coast Guard and local governments to identify and remove vessels and other debris from waterways and upland private and commercial properties. The newly created State Debris Cleanup Program will assist Hurricane Ian survivors with the removal of displaced and abandoned titled property. Residents can request the removal of debris including vehicles, vessels, motorcycles, trailers and ATVs. To make a request, visit IanDebrisCleanup.com to report the presence of debris.
Owners of derelict vessels who lack the resources to have their boat repaired, or if their vessel is determined to be beyond repair, may release ownership of their vessel. This process can be initiated by contacting the FWC through the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at 850-488-5600 and requesting to turn over a derelict vessel. An FWC representative will then contact the owner to explain the waiver process and facilitate the potential turnover of ownership. To date, the FWC has received approximately 50 waivers from affected boat owners.
Tuesday, Nov. 15, will mark the end of the 45-day period for vessel owners to either remove a derelict boat from the waters of the state or bring it into a non-derelict condition. If a derelict vessel is not brought into compliance or removed from the water by that day, it will be treated as any other derelict vessel. At this time, the FWC will not be charging displaced vessel owners with a criminal violation of Florida law but the decision to hold vessel owners responsible for removal, destruction and disposal costs could be made at a future date. Vessel owners are encouraged to hire a salvage company to recover their vessel to provide the safest method possible for the vessel and the environment.
For questions related to vessel removal or recovery on state waters, to report storm damaged, lost or abandoned boats on state waters, or to initiate the waiver process, call the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at 850-488-5600 between the hours of 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday.
Public safety remains the number one priority at the FWC. The FWC would like to remind the public that officers will begin marking underwater navigational hazards with hazard buoys but there are still many underwater hazards. Pay close attention, use extreme caution, look out for submerged navigation aids and avoid areas where officers are working to mark or remove vessels.