FWC commissioners approve derelict Vessel Turn-In Program for prevention

Special to the Northwest Florida Daily News/USA TODAY NETWORK

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has approved the final rule establishing a statewide Vessel Turn-In Program (VTIP) as part of the Derelict Vessel Prevention Program.

The new rule will create a voluntary program to remove at-risk vessels before they become derelict, which helps Florida’s environment and public safety.

The Division of Law Enforcement’s Boating and Waterways Section is spearheading a multi-year effort to dramatically reduce the backlog of derelict vessels on Florida’s waters.

The derelict vessel Makin' Memories is towed out of Massalina Bayou in Bay County earlier this year after it was freed from the shore. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has approved a new rule to develop a voluntary program to remove at-risk vessels before they become derelict.

The vessels destroy valuable seagrass resources and endanger marine life. They also threaten human life, safety and property as they drift on or beneath the surface of the water or block navigable waterways and pose a navigational hazard to the boating public.  

Recent legislation enables the FWC to create a Derelict Vessel Prevention Program, and the VTIP is one component of the FWC’s approach to derelict vessel prevention.

“Commissioners receive numerous contacts from the public about derelict vessels and I know the establishment of this new program will really make a difference,” FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto said. “Thanks to the efforts of Sen. Ben Albritton, Rep. Josie Tomkow, Rep.Jay Trumbull and Sen. Kelli Stargel, we’ve received the resources and the legislative support to make this program a reality.” 

Derelict vessels are more costly and complicated to remove than at-risk vessels. A VTIP will prevent vessels from becoming derelict by removing them from the water when they are at risk of becoming derelict, which will result in cost savings for taxpayers and ultimately fewer derelict vessels.

The VTIP is designed to allow owners of vessels at risk of becoming derelict the ability to voluntarily turn the vessels over to the state for removal and destruction.  

“Derelict vessels are a priority for the FWC. Establishing the Vessel Turn-In Program provides a voluntary pathway for owners to remove at-risk vessels from the water before becoming derelict, thereby reducing future costs of removal," said Col. Roger Young, director of the FWC Division of Law Enforcement. "Removing at-risk vessels from Florida’s waterways before they become derelict is not only a win for the environment but also for public safety, taxpayers and the vessel owners.” 

See the FWC meeting agenda and documents at MyFWC.com/Commission by clicking on “Commission Meetings” and the agenda under “July 13-14, 2022.”