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New Law Covers Boats “At Risk” of Becoming Derelict

Derelict Boats | FWC | At-Risk Boats

Owners that don’t care for their boats can face fines, state officials say.

TAMPA BAY – A new law allows officials to cite owners of boats that are “at risk” of becoming derelict.

“This law allows officers to take action before a vessel crosses that line between at-risk and derelict, and hopefully prompts the owner to rectify any issues with the vessel before it reaches a state of disrepair,” said Phil Horning, Forida Fish and Wildlife’s Conservation Commission derelict vessel program administrator. “Prior to this law being enacted, officers had to wait until a vessel met the legal criteria for a derelict vessel before beginning any sort of official interaction with the owner.”

Under the new law, a vessel is deemed to be “at-risk” if any of the following conditions is observed:

  • *The vessel is taking on or has taken on water without an effective means to dewater.
  • *Spaces on the vessel that are designed to be enclosed are incapable of being sealed off or remain open to the elements for extended periods of time.
  • *The vessel has broken loose or is in danger of breaking loose from its anchor.
  • *The vessel is left or stored aground unattended in such a state that would prevent the vessel from getting underway, is listing due to water intrusion, or is sunk or partially sunk.

If an officer sees a vessel with one or more of these criteria, a non-criminal citation may be issued that requires the owner to correct the problem or face stronger penalties after 30 days have passed. If problems are not fixed, non-compliant vessel owners can face additional fines issued every 30 days until they are.

Officials expect that this new law will decrease the number of vessels becoming derelict, a problem which continues to burden the state’s public waterways.

“Our goal is to keep Florida’s waterways safe and protect their environmental stability,” Horning said. “We are committed to protecting this valuable resource for the people of Florida and its visitors.”

FWC | Derelict Boats | At Risk Boats  FWC | Derelict Boats | At Risk BoatsWhen owners sell their boats, they must do so properly.

“Many owners don’t realize that not only is the buyer required to get the vessel re-titled in their name, but the seller is also required to notify the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles within 30 days that they have sold their vessel,” Horning said.

Failure to do so is a violation and may cause the prior owner of record legal troubles should the vessel become derelict at a later date. The FWC will help state and local governments with derelict vessel removal grants. Interested applicants may contact the FWC Derelict Vessel Program office at 850-617-9540 or email for more information.

For information about the FWC, go to

Photos of derelict boats courtesy of the FWC.

FWC | Derelict Boats | Fish and Wildlife | Boats | At-risk Boats | TB Reporter

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New Law Covers Boats
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New Law Covers Boats
Owners that don't care for their boats can face fines, state officials say.
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TB Reporter
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