‘Huge hazard:’ Daytona Beach leaders crack down on derelict boats

Boat removal can cost taxpayers $10K each if owners cannot be found

Daytona Beach city commission just approved emergency funding to remove over a dozen.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – They’re eyesores, dangers to boaters, and create environmental hazards in Central Florida’s waters.

Daytona Beach city leaders are cracking down on derelict boats. City commission just approved emergency funding to remove over a dozen.

Those on the water said the problems they create go beyond environmental issues.

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“They’re a hindrance to everybody who enjoys the waterways here - they’re dangerous,” said Officer Nick Gurucharri.

Gurucharri, Daytona Beach Police Department’s Marine Unit officer, keeps tabs on the city’s derelict boats.

“We’ve removed somewhere north of 30 vessels from the river since the beginning of 2020,” he said.

So far in 2022, the city has removed 15 from the Halifax River, and now it’s identified over a dozen more to take out with the funding just passed.

Each one with a big bill for taxpayers to foot.

“It’s about $10,000 give or take. That’s an average breakdown. Obviously, some are more some are less. It goes per linear foot for removal demolition and disposal,” he said.

Gurucharri said they’re dangerous to boaters, with sunken boats barely sticking out above the water, and the environment.

“You’ve got diesel fuel and gasoline spillage that’s going out into the river,” he said.

If they aren’t underwater already, that’s when Gurucharri said they become an easy home base for criminals.

“They attract the transients and the squatters and the undesirable people you don’t want in your backyard,” he said.

He pointed to a case in April with a boat on the city’s derelict list. He said police found a squatter on it and stolen items which cleared three recent burglary cases from homes and boats nearby.

“We’ve had so much criminal activity recently associated with these boats that if you eliminate the place for them to go, you’re making it more difficult for them to commit crimes,” he said.

Gurucharri said he’s seen an uptick this year in the abandoned boats, compared to when Daytona Beach Police revamped its Marine Unit in 2020.

“Since January, we’ve identified 15 boats which in my opinion is an increase. When we initially started it we had 18 boats that I had identified as derelict and some of those boats had been there for years,” he said.

Many times, he said, they can find the owner and the person has 21 days to remove it from the water or face criminal charges and removal fines. He said a big problem many owners originally face is they don’t have insurance.

“Insurance policies, unlike cars, are not required to have a vessel on the waterways,” he said.

If police can’t find the owner that’s when the city pays, which is why police are now also cracking down on more boats at risk of sinking.

“What we’re really trying to do is aggressively attack these at-risk and derelict vessels on the front side to prevent them from getting to that point,” he said.

Once the city pulls them from the water, the boats are taken to a city lot where, what’s left of them, will be stripped and demolished.

About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.