Every year, hundreds of shipwrecks float in Florida’s waters. Once officials find them, they leave notices informing the owner it must be removed. Many owners never get the notices, though. Some just disappear, while others simply cannot afford to pay for the removal. When this is the case, hundreds of shipwrecks remain in the water, posing a danger to the economy, and the public.
It is a problem year after year. After Hurricane Irma though, it has become even worse. The storm wrecked almost 3,000 boats around the state. 226 of those are still in Florida’s waters, in addition to the 370 other dangerously grounded boats. Considering that every boat removal costs tens of thousands of dollars, it is easy to see how this problem is affecting the state. That cost gets passed down to taxpayers.
The problem is not only economic. With so many shipwrecks in Florida’s waters, and so many Floridians that love to be on the water at all hours of the day, they are a real danger. Boats traveling through the area can easily collide with shipwrecks, causing even further damage and injury. This is particularly true in the case of many shipwrecks that have only partially sunk and are more difficult to see at night.
In Miami, an area that has some of the highest number of shipwrecks in their waters, it can sometimes take months or years to remove a derelict boat. This is due to the high costs associated with doing so, and different legal requirements. With so many boats littering the waterways for so long, some believe it is an accident waiting to happen.
“There is no doubt that the amount of shipwrecks will cause a serious accident. The question is when,” says Sean Domnick of Domnick Cunningham & Whalen. “Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to the problem. If the owner cannot be found, it is even more difficult for injured individuals to claim compensation.”
The problem is not a new one for Florida. Early in 2018, part of an old wooden sailing ship thought to date back to the 1700s was pulled out of the waters. It was dubbed by a local antique dealer “the Holy Grail of shipwrecks.”