The South Carolina House of Representatives cleared a bill Friday that would give residents the power to claim abandoned boats left in the water. The bill heads to the Senate after passing the House on third reading.
Rep. Nelson Hardwick (R-Horry) says that right now, there are more than 200 boats sitting abandoned along the coast, and there’s no money available for the state to move them.
The bill would give local governments the power to move the boats after 90 days. Ordinary citizens would be able to do the same. Currently, the boats can only be moved legally by the state Department of Natural Resources at the owner’s expense.
However, Hardwick says boat titles are not tightly enforced– meaning the boat’s owner can often get out of paying the fine.
If you had a boat and you abandoned it, and DNR came to you and said, “We’re going to fine $5,000 for abandoning this boat,” you would say, “That’s not my boat.”
Boat titles are hard to track, as they aren’t maintained in the same way as car titles. Hardwick said it is difficult to prove ownership.
Most boats that are abandoned essentially don’t have a current registration on them. If it don’t have a current registration, then… anybody’s kind of squeamish about taking the time and effort to take them to a magistrate’s court and have the magistrate say… “you have not proved that this boat belongs to this guy.”
DNR spokesman Brett Summers confirmed the agency often has trouble tracking down the owners of abandoned boats. He said, without the owner being forced to pay the fine, the cost of removing the boat is often prohibitive.
Hardwick says he expects marinas and coastal municipal governments to take advantage of the possible law.
I think that you could raise the money over a weekend to have a few… pulled out of there.
The bill passed by unanimous support. It now heads to the Senate.