Van Drew Bill To Simplify Process Of Removing Abandoned Vessels From Waterways Signed Into Law

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew to simplify the process of removing abandoned vessels from the state’s waterways by taking title transfers out of the courts has been signed into law by Governor Chris Christie.

The law (S-2909) removes the requirement that a person or entity, such as a municipality or harbor commission, seeking to acquire the title to an abandoned vessel must apply to a court for the title transfer. Instead, the application will be made to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission under the law.

“Our waterways are a vital part of our state economy, contributing to the development of tourism, commercial fishing and other major industries. Ensuring they remain clean and navigable and that our wildlife remains healthy is critical to our economic survival,” said Senator Van Drew. “Simplifying the process for title transfers will provide municipalities and other entities with a more effective and efficient tool to clear their harbors of abandoned vessels that may dangerous or simply unsightly.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), abandoned vessels are a problem in many coastal areas of the United States and are relinquished for a number of reasons, including storm events, community-wide economic stress, financial issues of individual owners and the high cost of proper vessel disposal. While abandoned vessels can become hazards to navigation, they also can cause significant harm to the environment by increasing oil pollution, creating marine debris and causing wildlife entrapment, the NOAA has reported.

“Abandoned vessels are a hazard to commercial and leisure boaters, but also to our coastal wildlife,” said Senator Van Drew. “We want to provide a process that will allow for local governments, harbor commissions and other entities to remove abandoned vessels, but also want to make sure that owners have time to relocate them if that is their intention.”

The law increases from seven days to 30 days the period of time during which a vessel must remain grounded, docked, and abandoned on any public land or waterway or any private property before it may be impounded. The law would require that the owner of an impounded vessel be responsible for the cost of the transportation, disposal, and other incidental costs associated with the impounded vessel.

The Assembly approved the measure by a unanimous vote of 78-0. It passed the Senate by a vote of 37-1.