Abandon(ed) Ship. . .

Tom’s Page has posted about the boats moored off of Byrant Park in the past and the situation does not seem to have improved.   One houseboat in particular appears to have developed a homing instinct for the park as it repeatedly drifts ashore.

As the seawall and playground reconstruction draws towards completion (more on that topic in a later post) these offshore eyesores continue to spoil the view.  Of course they constitute more than just an eyesore as they hold fuel and other contaminates that can be released if their hulls are punctured or, as in the case with at least three of them visible from the park, they sink.  Additionally abandoned boats can damage sensitive marine environments such as sea grass as they scrap along the bottom.

While Florida leads the nation in income from recreational boating (estimated at 18 billion dollars in 2007) it also has the largest number of abandoned and derelict boats.  In 2009 Florida State Statute 376.15  authorized the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and its officers and all law enforcement officers to remove any derelict vessel from public waters and the costs incurred to be paid by the owner of the vessel.  The Fish and Wildlife Commission also established a grant program to assist local governments in the removal of abandoned vessels.  Unfortunately funding for the program was not appropriated for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2010.

Florida State Statute 823.11 also covers abandoned and derelict vessels and violation can result in an a first degree misdemeanor.    However tracking down the owners of abandoned boats is difficult; the Hull Identification Number or HIN (the nautical equivalent of a car’s VIN number) is easily obliterated or simply may not exist on older or homemade  vessels.

The issue of the abandoned boats off  Byrant Park is not unique to Lake Worth and there are many stumbling blocks in the way of  solutions.  However they constitute blight and pollution to our waterfront, warranting the enforcement of existing statutes and exploring other possible avenues to affect their removal.

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2 Comments on “Abandon(ed) Ship. . .”

  1. Jes Says:

    Excellent post. A quick reading of the Lake Worth’s Municipal code gave me this

    “The police department is authorized and directed to take into custody and impound any vessel unlawfully anchored or moored in city waterways and any such vessel taken into custody and impounded under this authority shall not be released therefrom until the charges for towing such vessel and storage charges have been paid. The charge for towing or removal of any such vessel and storage charges shall be the customary charges prevailing in the city for such services.
    (Ord. No. 2003-18, § 2, 5-6-03)”

    and this

    “Abandoned vessels shall be removed and disposed of in accordance with the Palm Beach County Abandoned Vessels Removal and Disposal Ordinance.
    (Ord. No. 2003-18, § 2, 5-6-03)”

    According to several PBSO Deputies that I have spoken with, the City Manager and City Attorney have directed PBSO not to remove/impound any abandoned or inoperable vehicles parked on City Streets. I would be interested in their policy on abandoned and derelict boats. Why is the Sheriff’s Office hands being tied? If they have the budget and can do so, why doesn’t the City let them enforce the laws already on the books?

  2. tomspage Says:

    Thanks for the comment Jes, and very interesting info about the two more local ordinances.

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