How many abandoned boats are there in Sorry County? The SCDNR is about to discover
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – It is not known how many abandoned boats are currently drifting on waterways in Horry County.
It’s about to change.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources plans to travel the county’s waterways to essentially audit and document all boats in the area so it can begin the process of documenting abandoned vessels, identifying owners, and possibly removing them. potentially dangerous craft in the area – along with creating a partnership with the county similar to those it has elsewhere.
“If we can get it up there, I think it would be a win for everyone,” said Michael Thomas, region four law enforcement captain for the SCDNR.
Thomas, who oversees the waterways from Myrtle Beach to Savannah, predicts that Horry County will be his next goal to declutter the waterways.
The state passed a law in 2008 to identify abandoned boats, their owners, and to create penalties for people leaving their ships in state waters. A first survey in 2019 found that 215 boats met the threshold to open an investigation, according to the SCDNR’s 2020 Law Enforcement Investigations Statistics report, obtained by News13 as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. .
In 2020, 19 abandoned boats were removed from Georgetown County, 15 were removed from Charleston County, and nine were removed from Beaufort County.
“The number of abandoned boats continues to be a significant problem along coastal areas,” the report read. “Boat owners, who no longer choose to be responsible for the costs associated with the maintenance, storage or removal of their unwanted equipment, or who do not look after their property as required, abandon their vessels on our premises. Waterways. “
This is becoming an issue for the quality, safety and appearance of South Carolina waters.
Thomas doesn’t want an abandoned boat drifting away and damaging another ship. Boats also tend not to be properly lit at night, and fuel tanks can cause environmental problems. Boats also tend to be old and in poor condition.
“And then once they start to crumble, it creates more dangers and problems, and then they’re even more difficult to remove if we get to that point,” he said.
The process of removing an abandoned boat from state waters is long and usually complicated. If the SCDNR notices a potentially abandoned vessel, it is marked. The agency will try to locate the owner using the most recent registration information and display a sign for 45 days on the boat. After this period, he will send a certified letter to the last documented registered owner of the boat. Typically, Thomas said, that letter ends up bouncing back to the state.
He said the process takes a lot of work on the ground and rarely goes smoothly. If an owner is identified, the boat is not technically considered abandoned. In one case, the SCDNR spoke to a man who owned several boats and was unwilling to give up one of them. He then later agreed to drop three so they could be taken out.
Another time, they found out that the owner of a drifting boat had moved to South America and was not going to sign any papers to remove it from his name.
If the boat is signed, the SCDNR can work with a county to get it out of the water and destroy it. Thomas said the agency got rid of 30 to 40 abandoned boats with help from Beaufort County and also witnessed a big push in Georgetown County. In Charleston, the state is partnering with a veterans organization that repairs docks and removes abandoned boats.
The SCDNR does not have the funds or the boats to retrieve the ships, but Thomas said the collaborations with the counties had been “hugely successful”.
He then wants to tackle Horry County before the ships sink or break.
“We try to stick with them and we try to keep a full roster in every county,” he said.
Thomas wants to draw attention to the problem and offer solutions. The SCDNR is unable to write tickets for abandoned vehicles and wants to speed up the removal process. He is also keen to see state funding for the withdrawal, but fears this will create an incentive for irresponsible boat owners.
“We don’t want that,” he said. “We want something that allows them to fund their trip without encouraging people to leave their boats there. “
Instead of throwing a boat into the water, Thomas said the ships should be sent to a junkyard or salvaged.