FWC investigating more derelict boats after Michael

Bay County

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — After Hurricane Michael, many boats abandoned or damaged beyond repair were deemed ‘derelict vessels’. With a string of these boats around the coastal areas of Florida, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials have their hands full establishing who is responsible.

There is a statewide average of 450 to 500 active derelict cases at any given time, FWC officials said.

Several steps are taken to determine ownership and then holding those owners responsible, they added.

The process can take anywhere from a month to 90 days. Once the boat owner is contacted and fails to remove the derelict vessel, then the boat is removed by the city or county on their behalf.

The owner of the vessel is then charged for the removal, typically $500 per foot.

However, this process was not the same for boat owners during Hurricane Michael.

“There was a different process during Michael for the removal of hurricane-related derelict vessels, which we called displaced vessels. Those vessels were removed, there were no criminal charges incurred to the owners. There was a method of removing the vessel from the water, storing it, trying to locate the owner and let them come get it. If they chose not to or didn’t then the vessel was disposed of,” said FWC Derelict Vessel Program Administrator, Phil Horning.

After Hurricane Michael, the FWC reported that 175 derelict vessels were removed from waterways.

If you see a derelict vessel you would like to report or check on contact the FWC at (850) 265-3676.

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