As many in the County family know, there are a number of issues involving the regulation and enforcement of derelict vessels on state waters within their jurisdiction.   During the 2015 Legislative Session, bills were filed in both chambers to clarify when a vessel is at-risk (such as taking on water, leaking fuel, breaking loose from its mooring, left aground, etc.) as well as the enforcement authority and civil penalties associated with those vessels.   As a result of the much-publicized budget difficulties between the chambers, these bills did not make it through the process. 

This week, FAC was invited to attend a meeting in Tallahassee held by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) to identify and prioritize the many problems and potential solutions in more detail.   Attendees included representatives from the marine industry, law enforcement, federal and state regulators, legislative staff, academia and private citizens.  Local government was well represented with participants from all corners of the state - from Escambia County’s Robert Turpin to Monroe County Commissioner George Nugent and Waterways Manager, Rich Jones.  The general topics discussed included:

 

  • Vessel registration and titling
  • Vessel condition and operability
  • Vessel owner’s responsibility
  • Opportunities for funding assistance for vessel removal

 

At the end of the day, the stakeholders narrowed down a long list of potential solutions to the following: 

 

  1. DHSMV needs to follow §705.103(4) to revoke rights for registering vessels by owner and responsible party.
  2. The transfer of title should take place at a local tag office with both buyer and seller present.
  3. There should be a mandatory freeze on title transfers when a vessel has been deemed derelict, or while under investigation / litigation. 
  4. Statutory language should be changed so that a “responsible party” rather than owner of record can be held accountable.
  5. FWC should place a specific funding request for derelict vessels in its proposed agency budget.

 

The FWC intends to refine these concepts during future public workshops to be held around the state in the near future.  It was suggested that those locations would likely be in or around Daytona Beach, Sarasota, and Key Largo.   The ultimate goal will be to assist legislators should the issue be considered again during the next session. 

 

For more information, please contact Phil Horning at phil.horning@myfwc.com or (850) 488-5600.