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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 830.911 Authority to seize abandoned vessel or derelict vessel 

 
Distressed Vessels
If you find a distressed vessel, such as a boat adrift or that may have been in an accident, call the Coast Guard at (503) 861 - 6211 or local law enforcement.

List of Statewide Marine Patrol numbers

 
ORS 830.050 Reporting lost boat
ORS 830.908 – ORS 830.948 Definitions, Authority to seize abandoned vessel or derelict vessel, et seq.

 
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 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 830.923 Seizure without notice

 
Possessory Chattel Liens
A person who repairs, transports, provides storage, or other services through a written agreement with 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 for labor 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 Report of transfer, abandonment or destruction of boat, boathouse or floating home or change of address of owner
ORS 468B.305 Entry of oil into waters of state prohibited
OAR 340-142-40 Required Reporting
OAR 340-142-50 Reportable Quantities
 

 
Removal of Abandoned and Derelict Vessels
An abandoned vessel is any vessel that has been left without authorization on public or private land, waters of the sate, or any other waters. Oregon law prohibits abandoning boats, floating homes, and boathouses.

A derelict vessel is defined as a vessel: that has sunk or is in danger of sinking; is obstructing a waterway; endangering life or property; or at risk of becoming a significant environmental hazard. If an enforcement agency has reason to believe a vessel is derelict, they can seize the vessel without prior notice to the lawful owner.

An owner of an abandoned or derelict vessel or floating property remains responsible for the cost of clean-up, removal, storage, and disposal. The owner of an abandoned or derelict vessel may reclaim their vessel if they pay all the costs incurred for the salvaging, towing, and storing of the vessel, and if they can prove they can keep the vessel in a lawful place.

Abandoning a vessel is a violation. Other criminal or civil penalties related to littering or environmental degradation are also possible. It makes no difference if the abandoned or derelict boat is left on public or private land; it’s illegal to do so.
 
ORS 830.908 Definitions
ORS.830.911 Authority to seize abandoned vessel or derelict vessel
ORS 830.933 Reclamation of seized vessels
ORS 830.938 Liability for costs of salvage, towing, and storage
ORS 830.944 Offenses
ORS 830.990 Penalties
ORS 164.775 Deposit of trash within 100 yards of waters or in waters
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, or an imminent threat to public health and safety, may be removed and secured or otherwise disposed of immediately by the sheriff, Coast Guard or other enforcement authorities.
 
ORS 830.923 Seizure without notice

 
Enforcement Agencies
Any public body that has responsibility for the area on which an abandoned or derelict vessel is located (such as law enforcement, a federal agency, or the State Marine Board) can investigate reports of abandoned or derelict vessels, place a pre-seizure notice on any vessel that is determined to be abandoned or derelict, and will attempt to locate the vessel’s owner.  If the owner does not remove the vessel, the enforcement agency can seize the vessel, hold it at the owner’s expense, and may sell it at a public auction or otherwise dispose of it. The owner of the vessel remains responsible for all the removal, storage, and disposal costs.
 
ORS 830.911 - ORS 830.948 Authority to seize abandoned vessel or derelict vessel, et seq.

 
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, or correct the derelict condition of the vessel, within the time specified in the seizure notice, the enforcement agency then takes it into custody and holds it at the owner’s expense. If the vessel has an identification number, the enforcement agency mails a notice to the owner of record. The owner must claim or recover the vessel within 30 days of the post-seizure notice, or the boat will become vested with the enforcement agency and will be sold or destroyed.
 
ORS 830.911 Authority to seize abandoned vessel or derelict vessel
ORS 98.244 Offenses
 
Reclaiming Abandoned Vessels
An owner can reclaim a boat held by the enforcement agency before the date specified in the seizure notice. 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, as well as proof of lawful storage of the vessel going forward. The owner is also entitled to request a hearing to dispute the seizure of the vessel.
 
ORS 830.933 Reclamation of seized vessels
ORS 830.936 Hearing

 
Sale or Disposal of Abandoned Vessels
If an owner does not claim a boat within the 30 days it is in custody, the title to the vessel and all personal property found in the vessel will become the property of the enforcement agency. The vessel may be sold at auction or otherwise disposed of.
 
ORS 830.933 Reclamation of seized vessels