Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by LCDR Charles Bright, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Marine Transportation Systems.
Vessels are abandoned or become derelict for many reasons. Unfortunately, these vessels can number in the hundreds in some locations, such as states with large boating publics like Florida, Georgia, and Washington. In some of these locations, vessels have been abandoned for such a long time that no one can remember how they got there or who the owners are.
Who Has the Lead?
If the owner cannot be found or is unable to remove the vessel, many times removal will fall to the federal or state government. Along with state environmental and enforcement agencies, four federal agencies play a role in abandoned and derelict vessel removal:
- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
- the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
- the U.S. Coast Guard,
- the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Even with the multitude of authorities, limited funding and resources can pose a problem.
In September 2009, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hosted the first Federal Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Workshop, where the four federal agencies presented their processes for dealing with vessels to the state agencies.
In addition, several state program managers presented best practices for dealing with the numerous vessels within their states.
Understanding all the authorities and jurisdictions is just the beginning when it comes to dealing with the problem of abandoned and derelict vessels. With the multitude of state and local programs and federal authorities, coordinating this process can be daunting. Federal and state agencies and local or private groups should come together prior to any incident to establish working relationships.
Knowing where one agency’s authority and funding stops and another begins facilitates this process. Planning the process from beginning to end is also key to avoiding roadblocks and other unwanted situations. No one wants a vessel removed only to find out there is no place to put it. It may also be that one agency asserts itself in the operational review and approval process because the vessel might be considered a historical landmark. These types of situations do happen and can best be avoided through a fully coordinated plan.
Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/spring2011/.
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