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Water-Related News

FWC creates hotline to address thousands of vessels displaced by Hurricane Ian

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The public can report vessels on Florida waters that are displaced or damaged by calling the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at 850-488-5600, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Callers should be prepared to provide the vessel’s registration number, current location and detailed description.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has established a hotline for reporting displaced vessels still on Florida state waters because of Hurricane Ian.

When Hurricane Ian swept across the state, thousands of vessels were displaced by wind and storm surge. Some were pushed ashore, some damaged in marinas and private docks, others relocated but still afloat and some partially or fully sunken.

“We take this matter seriously and understand the hardship that Hurricane Ian has placed upon our residents,” said Boating and Waterways Section Leader Maj. Rob Beaton. “FWC officers are diligently working to determine the current number and ownership of storm-related displaced vessels across the state. We are committed to helping boat owners find their vessels and facilitate the removal of vessels from state waters that are posing a threat to the environment or blocking waterways.”

The FWC and partner agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Department of Transportation, Division of Emergency Management and other federal, state and local agencies are working with vessel owners to remove or relocate these vessels.

“These efforts will take time. While the majority of displaced vessels are in Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties, there are multiple counties affected on both coasts of the state,” said Coast Guard Cdr. Melanie Burnham, Incident Commander for the Marine Environmental Response. “We appreciate the cooperation of the boating public during this unprecedented recovery effort.”

Vessel owners are encouraged to hire a salvage company to recover their vessel to provide the safest method possible for the vessel and the environment. The removal of displaced vessels can hasten the recovery and overall resilience of native marine plants and animals.

Owners of vessels that have become derelict have 45 days from the day the hurricane passed over the state to either remove their boats from waters of the state or bring it into a non-derelict condition. It’s important for boat owners to know that they have options regarding the future of their vessel.

Owners of displaced vessels who lack the resources to have their boat repaired, or if their vessel is determined to be beyond repair, may release ownership of their vessel. This process can be initiated by contacting the FWC through the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at 850-488-5600 and requesting to turn over a displaced vessel. An FWC representative will then contact the owner to explain the waiver process and facilitate the potential turnover of ownership.