(July 1, 2016)-  The Cape Coral Police Department Marine Unit made boaters and some SE Cape Coral residents very happy on Tuesday afternoon after removing a derelict vessel, named "Bulldog," from a canal in the 1100 block of Lucerne Avenue.

What is a "derelict vessel?"  The phrase calls to mind images of creepy ghost ships.  Here is what the law says:

327.4107 Vessels at risk of becoming derelict on waters of this state.—
(1) To prevent vessels in neglected or deteriorating condition from reaching a likely and foreseeable state of disrepair, a vessel that is at risk of becoming derelict pursuant to subsection (2) may not anchor on, moor on, or occupy the waters of this state.
(2) An officer of the commission or of a law enforcement agency specified in s. 327.70 may determine that a vessel is at risk of becoming derelict if any of the following conditions exist:
(a) The vessel is taking on or has taken on water without an effective means to dewater.
(b) Spaces on the vessel that are designed to be enclosed are incapable of being sealed off or remain open to the elements for extended periods of time.
(c) The vessel has broken loose or is in danger of breaking loose from its anchor.
(d) The vessel is left or stored aground unattended in such a state that would prevent the vessel from getting underway, is listing due to water intrusion, or is sunk or partially sunk.
(3) A person who anchors or moors a vessel at risk of becoming derelict on the waters of this state or allows such a vessel to occupy such waters commits a noncriminal infraction, punishable as provided in s. 327.73.
(4) The penalty under this section is in addition to other penalties provided by law.
(5) This section does not apply to a vessel that is moored to a private dock or wet slip with the consent of the owner for the purpose of receiving repairs.

There are many derelict or nuisance vessels around the city and our Marine Unit is constantly checking and updating the status of these vessels.  If a vessel is determined to be derelict, the process to remove it involves working with the Lee County Sheriff's Office, FWC, US Coast Guard in some cases, and the Department of Natural Resources whose funding pays for independent salvage companies to respond and have the vessels removed. 

"It would not be an exaggeration to say that from initial call to removal of a vessel, may take many months or even years.  LCSO and FWC may have dozens of vessels on their respective lists to be removed," according to Sergeant Kurt Fundermark of the Cape Coral Police Department Marine Unit.  Limited funds and resources means that derelict vessels have to be prioritized for removal.

"Any vessel that is tied to a dock with permission of the owner cannot ever be a derelict vessel.  A vessel tied to a dock can be a code violation, and like many other things we do, it may be hard to get there on a criminal investigation, but a civil penalty can have the teeth needed to motivate people.  Looking at the legal definition, if a vessel is in that condition it is an eyesore, it decreases property values of everything around it, it endangers the environment, and could be a hazard to people and property in the area, if pieces of the vessel break away and drift to cause a navigational hazard," said Sergeant Fundermark.

The vessel in the photo below, named "Bulldog," was removed on Tuesday afternoon, had holes in the hull, holes in the cabin and previously leaked oil and gas into our waterways (which was addressed at the time by the US Coast Guard).  The three people primarily responsible for the Bulldog removal were Cape Coral Code Enforcement Todd Hoagland, Lee County Sheriff Deputy Tim Babor, and Cape Coral Police Department Marine Officer Robert Slager.  The removal of the "Bulldog" was a big win, in a long fight to keep our waterways safe and aesthetically pleasing to everyone.

 PHOTO:  The derelict vessel "Bulldog" was removed from a canal in the 1100 block of Lucerne Avenue Tuesday afternoon, thanks to the cooperation of several local, state, and federal agencies.  (Photo Courtesy of Cape Coral Police Department)

PHOTO:  The derelict vessel "Bulldog" was removed from a canal in the 1100 block of Lucerne Avenue Tuesday afternoon, thanks to the cooperation of several local, state, and federal agencies.  (Photo Courtesy of Cape Coral Police Department)

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CAPE CORAL POLICE DEPARTMENT | Public Affairs Office | 1100 Cultural Park Boulevard | Cape Coral, FL 33990 | (239) 242-3341