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Salvage Law & Abandoned Boats in Oregon
Salvage Law
Who owns a lost or abandoned boat, and if you find one, can you salvage it? The old belief that a ship abandoned by its crew was free for the taking is no longer true. There is no "finder's keepers" rule for boats, floating homes, boat houses or other vessels. Lost or abandoned boats remain the property of their owner, whether registered or not.

 
Finding a Lost or Abandoned Vessel
If you find a boat that appears to have been lost or abandoned on your property call your county sheriff’s marine patrol or The Oregon State Marine Board in Salem at (503) 378-8587.
If the boat is on your property and has a Hull Identification Number or Oregon registration number, the Marine Board will give you the name and address of the last known owner. If you are a marina repair shop owner and the boat was repaired, stored, moored, towed, etc. by you at the request of the owner or lawful possessor of the boat, see the "Possessory Chattel Liens" section below. 
 
ORS 830.050 Reporting lost boat
ORS 830.912 Removing authority power to remove and take into custody abandoned boat, floating home or boathouse.
ORS 90.245 Disposition of unclaimed property; notice of pending disposition; procedure
 

 
Derelict Vessels
If you find a derelict, such as a beached, sunk, or drifting boat, call the Coast Guard at (503) 861 - 6211 or local law enforcement.
 
ORS 830.050 Reporting lost boat
ORS 830.907 – ORS 830.927 Definitions, Disposal of unclaimed boat, floating home or boathouse

 
Floating Logs and Navigation Hazards
Timber companies brand the logs they cut, which remain the property of the company that harvested them.  Call the Oregon Department of Forestry to locate the company, call (503) 945-7425.
 
ORS 532.010 (4) (8) Definitions
ORS 532.040 Ownership of forest products and booming equipment presumed from registered brands or catch brands presumed thereupon
ORS 532.140 Prohibited acts relating to branding or marking if intended to injure or defraud
 
If the log or other floating debris creates a hazard to navigation, call your local sheriff’s marine patrol.  In the greater Portland Area, call the US Coast Guard for man-made objects or pollution problems; call the US Army Corps of Engineers for items near federal projects that are hazards to navigation in a shipping channel. (If a downed tree creates no hazard, leave it in the water to provide habitat for marine life.)  
 
ORS 830.160 Board Authority to remove obstructions from water
ORS 830.914 (1), (2) removing authority custody of boat, floating home or boathouse that constitutes hazard, rules

 
Possessory Chattel Liens
A person who repairs, transports, provides storage, or other services at the request of the registered owner or lawful owner has a lien on that boat for payment of the agreed upon charges. That person may retain possession of the boat until those charges are paid off. If the charges are not paid, the lien can be foreclosed on and the boat can be sold after following waiting period and notification requirements as described by law. Click here to download more information.
 
ORS 87.152 - ORS 87.214  Possessory lien or material expended on chattel, et seq.

 
Reporting Transfer, Abandonment, or Destruction of Boat
If your boat sinks or is wrecked, you are liable for any oil or fuel spills and you are required to remove the vessel. If your boat breaks loose and is lost, call your local sheriff’s marine patrol and other local law enforcement agencies.  If it’s registered in Oregon, notify the Marine Board. Remember to notify the Marine Board and local law enforcement officials if you recover your boat. 
 
You must report any oil or chemical spills into the waters of the state to Oregon Emergency Response at 800-OILS-911 and to the Coast Guard at 800-424-8802
 
 
ORS 830.710 (1) Reporting transfer, abandonment, or destruction of boat, floating home or boathouse
ORS 468B.305 Entry of oil into waters of state prohibited
OAR 340-142-40 Required Reporting
OAR 340-142-50 Reportable Quantities
 

 
Abandonment of a Vessel
Oregon Law prohibits abandoning boats, floating homes, and boathouses. An owner who abandons marine property remains responsible for the cost of clean-up, removal, storage, and disposal.
Abandoning a vessel is a criminal offense. Other criminal or civil penalties related to littering or environmental degradation are also possible. It makes no difference if you abandon a boat on public or private land; it’s illegal to do so.
 
ORS 830.909 Offense of abandoning a boat, floating home of boat house; liability for costs of removal, clean up and disposal
ORS 830.990 Penalties
ORS 164.775 Deposit of trash within 100 yards of waters or in waters; license suspensions; civil penalties
ORS 164.805 Offensive Littering
ORS 468B.305 Entry of oil into waters of state prohibited
 
Under Oregon law, boats include personal water craft such as Jet Skis and Wave Riders.  They also include canoes, drift boats, and other non-powered boats not required to be registered with the Marine Board.
 
ORS 830.005 Definitions, (2) (6)

 
Hazards to Navigation
Abandoned vessels that are hazards to navigation may be removed and secured or otherwise disposed of immediately by the sheriff, Coast Guard or other authorities.
 
ORS 830.914 Removing authority custody of boat, floating home or boathouse that constitutes hazard.
ORS 98.245 Disposition of unclaimed property; notice of pending disposition; procedure

 
Role of County Sheriffs
The county sheriff will investigate reports of abandoned or derelict vessels, place a removal notice on any vessel that is determined to be abandoned, and will attempt to locate the vessel’s owner.  If the owner does not remove the vessel, the sheriff can take it into custody, hold it at the owner’s expense, and may sell it at a public auction or otherwise dispose of it.
 
ORS 830.912 Removing authority power to remove and take into custody abandoned boat, floating home or boathouse
ORS 830.917 Notice of Intent to take custody
ORS 830.922 Exception to Notice requirement
ORS 830.927 Disposal of unclaimed boat, floating home or boathouse
ORS 98.245 Disposition of unclaimed property; notice of pending disposition; procedure

 
Custody and Disposition of Abandoned Vessels
If the owner fails to remove a boat, floating home or boathouse from the location where it was abandoned within the time specified in the removal notice, the sheriff then takes it into custody and holds it at the owner’s expense. If the vessel has an identification number, the sheriff mails a notice to the owner of record. The owner must claim or recover the vessel within 60 days, or the boat will be considered “unclaimed property” and will be sold or destroyed.
 
ORS 830.912 Removing authority power to remove and take into custody abandoned boat, floating home or boathouse.
ORS 98.245 Disposition of unclaimed property; notice of pending disposition; procedure

 
Reclaiming Abandoned Vessels
An owner can reclaim a boat held by the sheriff at any time. The owner must present proof of ownership or right of possession and pay all costs and expenses incurred during the removal and storage of the vessel.
 
ORS 830.924 Request for hearing on proposal to remove boat, floating home or boathouse; hearing; final order; appeal
ORS 830.927 Disposal of unclaimed boat, floating home or boathouse
ORS 98.245.2 (d-g) Disposition of unclaimed property; notice of pending disposition; procedure.

 
Sale or Disposal of Abandoned Vessels
If an owner does not claim a boat within the 60 days it is in custody, the vessel will become “unclaimed property.” The sheriff will then publish a notice in three public places and in a newspaper of general circulation in the jurisdiction with a description of the “unclaimed property.” Any person having ownership or security interest in the “unclaimed property” has 30 days to file a claim before they lose their interest in the property. If no one files a claim or the claim is not upheld, the vessel may be sold at auction. If no bid is made on the vessel (or the vessel has no value), the sheriff may destroy it or otherwise dispose of it.
 
ORS 830.927 Disposal of unclaimed boat, floating home or boathouse
ORS 98.245 Disposition of unclaimed property; notice of pending disposition; procedure