Derelict & Abandoned Vessels
Thousands of boaters enjoy the Keys’ waters every year. However, some boat owners end up neglecting their boats, leaving them at anchor to become derelict or abandoned. Unfortunately, those vessels often become environmental or navigational hazards and must be removed from the water at the taxpayer’s expense.
Derelict Vessel Removal Program
The Monroe County Marine Resources Office works cooperatively with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and other law enforcement partners to remove derelict vessels. Law enforcement personnel notify boat owners who may be subject to fines or jail time if they do not take corrective action. When all attempts to locate and hold the boat owner responsible have failed, the vessel is referred to the Marine Resources office for removal.
Each year, the Marine Resources Office removes an average of 60-80 derelict vessels utilizing pre-qualified marine contractors that competitively bid for each job. Removal of these vessels represents more than $350,000 in annual expenses to the County. Law enforcement works hard to recoup these expenses from the vessel owner through court-ordered restitution. In addition, law enforcement has the authority to place a title freeze on the vessel so it cannot be sold to an unsuspecting buyer. They can also limit the ability of a person convicted of a derelict vessel to register another vessel until repayment for the removal expenses is made by the owner.
To reduce the number of vessels ending up as derelict, Monroe County supports initiatives to prevent this problem. In 2017, the Florida Legislature adopted an At-Risk Vessel Program to provide early notification to vessel owners that their vessel may be at risk of becoming derelict. In addition, Monroe County supports other management objectives to address boating-related issues as a whole. It is a challenging issue, but one that can be managed through education, prevention, and strong enforcement measures.
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Special Marquesas Keys Cleanup Project - 2017
A multi-agency project to remove 31 abandoned and derelict vessels from the remote Marquesas Keys was completed in March 2017.
Monroe County’s Marine Resources Office led the $61,200 effort that restored shoreline and nearshore habitats in the Marquesas Keys – a group of islands located about 17 nautical miles west of Key West and within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. These islands have been a historic landing spot for Cuban migrant rafters, who leave behind their rustic vessels known as “chugs” that contain batteries, fuel, oil, polystyrene foam, plastic, and other hazardous materials.