Proposed city rule to add mooring permits to address derelict, abandoned vessels

Under the proposed rule, boat owners will have to get a permit if they plan to moor for more than two consecutive weeks.
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 4:42 PM EDT|Updated: May. 9, 2023 at 6:28 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - It’s a problem that coastal cities in the U.S. often encounter, derelict and abandoned boats on the waterways. The City of Charleston is no different, but a potential new rule could change that.

Charleston Police said Tuesday they’re trying to be more proactive in enforcing these vessels by requiring permits to moor in the waterways.

Under the proposed rule, boat owners will have to get a permit if they plan to moor for more than two consecutive weeks. Police said this would allow them to work with the owners before the boats become an issue.

Master Police Officer Michael Merrill with the department’s harbor patrol said as it stands, there is nothing they can enforce for a boat in the process of sinking until it has happened.

“The abandonment laws all take effect after the boat has already sunk or has become stranded or has already become abandoned,” Merrill said. “What this will do is take a more proactive approach where we can work with owners beforehand and identify boats that are likely to become abandoned at some point or already having issues.”

Merrill said the new rule should save taxpayers money, as it costs a few thousand dollars to remove a floating boat compared to upwards of $20,000 for a sunken boat.

Police said the biggest problem areas are in the Ashley River near the Charleston City Marina and on Johns Island near the Limehouse Bridge.

They also said the rule is similar to one passed on Folly Beach, which, they said, has been successful in addressing these problem boats.

The goal is to prevent abandoned and derelict vessels from becoming hazardous to the environment, other boaters and public health.

“We have a lot of issues with boats that drift, drag anchor, hit bridges, hit boats in the marinas, hit other boats on anchor, become navigational hazards, sinking and having a mast sticking out of the water,” Merrill said. “We’ve spent a lot of time and resources and money pulling boats for the last several years since I’ve been in the unit because of those issues.”

The rule needs to go through three readings at city council before it’s enforced.

Police said there will be no grace period once it does take effect, but they will need some time to get the permitting process started before they can start enforcing.