Don't abandon ship!

Derelict vessels should draw harsher enforcement, vigorous punishment

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Owning a boat can be like owning an elephant. It can be cool and fun, and you can brag about it to your friends. But the reality of upkeep too often becomes a pain that, at some point, you no longer want to deal with.

So you choose to get rid of it.

That's tough with an elephant. You can't just ditch him on the side of the road.

But with a boat it's easy. Too easy, in Georgia.

Abandoned boats are a problem on Georgia's waterways, and it isn't getting any better by ignoring it. Two groups that aren't ignoring it are the state Department of Natural Resources and, more locally, Savannah Riverkeeper.

There are about two dozen derelict vessels between Augusta and Savannah, by the Riverkeeper's estimate. There could be more. So the nonprofit group is trying to raise $15,000 to get rid of these boats that are leaking fuel, obstructing marine traffic and generally sitting as environmentally unpleasant eyesores on what otherwise would be a charming river.

We encourage you to donate to the cause -- the Riverkeeper can be reached at, or through its Facebook page. Your gift will be 100-percent tax-deductible.

In a perfect world, though, such groups wouldn't have to shake a tin cup and ask for money to remove property for which the owners should be chiefly held responsible.

Owning a boat in Georgia isn't like owning a house or a car. Or even an elephant. The state requires all watercraft to be registered, but that's about it. Boats in Georgia don't need titles, and they're not required to carry insurance.

There doesn't seem to be a firm, legally vested sense of ownership when you have a boat in Georgia. So probably as a result, if a person damages it or just grows tired of the hassles that come with owning a boat, the boater can just leave it and essentially forget about it.

There are laws on the books that deal with folks who abandon boats, but in Georgia the so-called penalties make a slap on the wrist look utterly draconian.

Many state lawmakers have said how much they treasure Georgia's water resources. They should put the force of law where their mouths are and craft legislation imposing much stronger penalties against people who are careless enough to abandon vessels that harmfully clutter our waterways.

Make it so bureaucratically and financially unpleasant to abandon a boat that owners won't even consider it as an option.

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seabeau 10/22/10 - 08:52 am
The person should be held

The person should be held responsible for polluting our waterways with petrochemicals if the boat is fitted with an engine. Or if the boat presents a hazard to navigation.

afadel 10/22/10 - 09:24 am
Well said, ACES!

Well said, ACES!

dashiel 10/22/10 - 09:42 am
A good and well written

A good and well written editorial, but so untypical of your anti-government regulation posturing. Are you implying that people actually NEED government?! Isn't that supposed to be un-American? It's getting harder and harder to know who you can mistrust.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 10/22/10 - 01:40 pm
I also thought it was out of

I also thought it was out of character for the Chronicle to call for more government, more bureaucracy, and more fees/fines/taxes to address a minor issue such as abandoned boats.

The way the state handles tires could be a model for the new boat bureaucracy. Every new tire sold in Georgia results in a fee being paid to the state government. It is used to pay the salaries of the inspectors and bureaucrats who try to make dealers send their scrap tires to tire recyclers. The excess money is used to clean up scrap tire piles where it is financially unfeasible for the landowners to pay.

So for the boats, you would have to collect a hefty fee upon the sale of any new boat - - - a fee large enough to pay for a new bureacracy and to accumulate a trust fund to pay the cost to haul the boats out of the rivers and lakes and demolish them and dispose of the materials in scrapyards and landfills.

Dorion 10/22/10 - 04:21 pm
Maybe if we throw enough

Maybe if we throw enough tires onto the boats, they'll both sink and we can avoid those pesky "bureaucracies".

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