Vessel owners have until 45 days after Ian crossed the state to get their vessels out of derelict condition. The end of the grace period is Nov. 15.
Owners are encouraged to hire a salvage company to recover their vessel to provide the safest method possible for the vessel and the environment. If they are unable to salvage their vessels, lack the resources to have their boat repaired or if their vessel is determined to be beyond repair, they may release ownership of their vessel. Waivers are available for removal and destruction and owners will not be charged for any removal costs. This process can be initiated by contacting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) through the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at 850-488-5600 and requesting to turn over a derelict vessel. An FWC representative will then contact the owner to explain the waiver process and facilitate the potential turnover of ownership. To date, the FWC has received approximately 50 waivers from affected boat owners in the Lee County area.
If a derelict vessel is not brought into compliance or removed from the water by Nov. 15, it will be treated as any other derelict vessel. At this time, the FWC will not be charging displaced vessel owners with a criminal violation of Florida law but the decision to hold vessel owners responsible for removal, destruction and disposal costs could be made at a future date.
FWC officers continue to work tirelessly with partner agencies to assess vessels displaced by Hurricane Ian. Over 3,000 vessels have been assessed and research teams are contacting owners and insurance companies to provide information, guidance and reunite vessel owners with their property. We have water and land-based teams assessing vessels. If your vessel is missing or you have located a vessel on state waters displaced by the hurricane, please report it to our Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline: 850-488-5600. For all other vessels, the Division of Emergency Management has established a hotline for vessel and property owners at 850-961-2002. for vessels on land.
Public safety remains the number one priority at the FWC. The FWC would like to remind the public that officers are assessing submerged vessels and marking underwater navigational hazards with hazard buoys but there are still a large number of underwater hazards.
“We take the quality and safety of our waterways very seriously,” said Boating and Waterways Section Leader Maj. Rob Beaton. “Remember to avoid hazards by keeping a minimum wake in the areas around neighborhoods in southwest Florida still under water and to keep a safe distance from our officers while they perform their duties.”