PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Hundreds of derelict vessels are scattered along Florida’s 825 miles of coastline.

“Right now, I think we have about 30 that we’re still working on,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Lieutenant Steve Wicker said. “So we had about 68 after Michael and then another 17 after Sally, and then we steadily get new ones.” 

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials rely on two programs to clean up abandoned boats.

The newest is the vessel turn-in program. 

Owners can turn over unwanted boats to the state before it becomes a hazard.

“If the boat’s registered in their name, they can’t afford to keep up with it and want to get rid of it, but they can’t they can sign it over to us,” Wicker said.  “And we will remove it from our water for free.”

An at-risk vessel has to meet certain criteria.

“They need to be issued either a warning or a citation for being deemed at risk,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Travis Basford said.  “They go over the application process, sign a waiver, submit some photos, and then have a clear title.”

The state also has a removal program for boats already considered derelict.

“A salvage company will come in and for this one, they would just drag it off in the boat ramp and remove it,” Wicker said. “The other ones are going to get divers and cranes and everything and they’re going to lift them up sometimes they put them on a barge.”

The surrender program is free, but the removal program costs the boat owners.

“If you’re unable to reimburse the state for removal, then you’re privileged are to register a vehicle your privileges to register a vehicle and vessel are going to be suspended until you can repay the state for the cost of removal,” Wicker said.

The hope is, boat owners will be proactive and take the free route but their boat becomes a costly problem.

For more information on Florida Fish and Wildlife’s derelict and turn-in vessel program, visit their website.