CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Authorities with the Charleston Police Department’s Harbor Patrol Unit say boats left abandoned in the Charleston Harbor are causing new headaches. Not only are the boats safety and environmental hazards, but removing them can be expensive.
“They break free in storms, they pose a hazard if drifting into marinas, into some of our structures,” says Sergeant Chris Morrel. “Secondly, they are a navigational hazard because a lot of them aren’t lit.”
Many are abandoned due to the cost of upkeep. The Charleston Harbor Patrol Unit is tasked with finding out how they got there.
“[We] begin trying to track down through the registration and the hull identification number, who was the last owner and we will trace the steps of that,” says Sergeant Morrell.
If an owner is identified, Sergeant Morrell says the owner is issued a $1,000 citation per a City of Charleston ordinance.
But the real problem comes when the owner can’t be found.
“If that does not happen and we’re unable to track down the owners, then we start the abandonment process for us to acquire funds to remove that boat from the waterways,” says Sergeant Morrell.
The money comes from the city, the SC Department of Natural Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and outside donors.
The patrol unit has been working hard to keep the Charleston waters clear over the past several years.
“We’ve made a significant change; we’ve gone from almost 30 boats down to currently we only have nine under investigation in the City of Charleston,” says Sergeant Morrell.
Three of the boats have already sunk, tripling or quadrupling the cost to remove them and increasing the burden on the environment. Morrell says that’s why they’re acting fast to remove the remaining boats.
“The best thing we can do is take this proactive approach to get a boat while it’s still floating and that’s one of the biggest things we’re trying to do,” says Sergeant Morrell.
The harbor patrol is hopeful funds and grant money can be secured in the near future to remove the boats still floating before they sink and cause even more problems.