Open your favorite search engine and type the following query into the search field—"crackdown on derelict boats"—and press the enter key. The first page of a Google search yields articles published in regional press as far-ranging as the Pacific Northwest, Florida, South Carolina, Chesapeake Bay, Massachusetts, and Trinidad. This is just the beginning of a long list of worldwide efforts to scuttle the problems posed by derelict boats.
The abandoned boat—commercial or pleasure craft—is not a new problem, but there is growing momentum for regional municipalities to take serious steps to not only remove and destroy these vessels, but also to charge the vessel’s owner with criminal negligence.
The least of the municipalities’ concerns are that these sunken or semi-submerged vessels are eyesores to otherwise beautiful waterways. Major concerns range from the potential environmental impact of toxins leaching into the ocean, to the obvious navigational hazards posed by unmarked vessels that are difficult or impossible to see.
Another key issue is the high cost of salvage, which can exceed six figures for some vessels—and in the infamous case of the 80-foot tug, Tilly, which sank in shallow waters off Key West, the salvage and tow costs are estimated to exceed $500,000. Unfortunately, Key West’s Monroe County receives merely $250,000 per year to dispose of derelict vessels.
In Charleston, South Carolina, the regional government is taking an incremental approach to the area’s derelict problem. Combined with $30,000 of city funds, Charleston was able to earn a $104,000 grant from South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, as well as an additional $75,000 from NOAA to clean up the Ashley River.
Charleston used the funds to hire a private contractor to begin removing derelict vessels, and intend to remove at least 10 of the 15 or more vessels along a mile-long section of waterway.