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Abandoned Derelict Boats

Recreational boats are abandoned or become derelict for many reasons. Derelict and abandoned vessels can cause various problems in and outside of marinas, including water quality degradation, pollution, and damage to public and private property when they sink or go adrift. In marinas, they take up valuable slip space and can be a source of pollution. They also decrease the area's aesthetic value and create hazards for responsible boaters.

Boat ownership comes with financial responsibility. Any structure, including a boat, in a water environment, needs special care and maintenance for a long, useful life. Boat owners need to plan to spend money on the basics for boat seaworthiness. It's important to have an end-of-life plan for the boat including being removed from the water, dismantled, and disposed of properly. 

For many reasons, abandoned or derelict vessels (ADVs) get in this condition. ADVs can cause issues in and outside marinas and can harm:

  • water quality
  • public or private property by causing damage to floats, docks, and structures
  • safe navigation when submerged or adrift
In marinas, they take up valuable slip space and can be a source of pollution.

Check with boatyards and disposal companies for estimates on the cost to dismantle and dispose of your boat when it can no longer be maintained.

There's a story behind every boat. And the story is a human one. Every boat owner must take responsibility. To protect the waterway, property, and for other peoples' safety.

​Abandoned vessels are those left without authorization on public or private land, or State waters.  Derelict vessels are those vessels that are sinking, actively polluting, obstructing a waterway, or endangering life or property.

An enforcement agency has the authority to seize vessels that meet these definitions.

​• Keep your registration current. All boats moored, operated or otherwise used in Oregon waters, are required to register with the Marine Board. OAR 250-010-0051. This includes Fed​erally Documented Vessels.​ Learn more about documented vessel registration.​

• Consider insuring your vessel.

• Keep your vessel in good working condition; ensure it is seaworthy and can move under its own power.

• Ensure the boat's hull is cleaned at least once a year (preferably more) with non-abrasive material, routinely replace zincs, and ensure the prop and shaft are free from corrosion and marine fouling. Divers can help with in-water hull cleaning, inspection and zinc replacement. Boat hulls with extensive marine growth should be removed from the water (dry docked) for repairs, proper hazardous material removal and containment by a reputable boatyard.

• If you are selling your boat, make sure the boat is going to good hands and inform the Marine Board of the transfer of ownership (Bill of Sale)If you don't, you could end up with the bill for removing the vessel if it becomes abandoned or derelict down-the-road.

• Have an end-of-life plan for your vessel. For ways to dispose of your vessel see the information on boat disposal options.

  • Dispose of hazardous materials properly (batteries, instrumentation, fuels, etc.)
  • Recycle any valuable parts or metals
  • Bring vessel to a boat salvage shop for proper dismantle or to the landfill if it is small enough


​Call your local County Sheriff’s Office​ if a boat appears to have become abandoned or derelict. Call 911 if the boat is involved in an emergency.  

Signs that a boat is at risk of becoming, or already is, an abandoned or derelict vessel include:

Listing to one side;

Bilge pump that runs frequently to expel water from the hull;

Severe external deterioration of wood, paint, or other materials;

Unusual quantities of growth of algae, moss, grass, or other plant material covering the boat;

Leaking fluids such as oil, fuel, or waste;

Drifting from moorage or docks;

Appearance of being illegally moored;

No movement in more than 30 days.

​Oregon has an abandoned and derelict vessel (ADV) program that is managed by the Oregon State Marine Board. The program includes legislation and procedures for delegating authority to an enforcement agency to seize and remove abandoned and derelict vessels from state lands and waters (ORS 830.908 through 830.944​). Oregon’s ADV program does not address the taking of abandoned or derelict vessels that occur on private property, which must be dealt with through abandoned property laws or reported to an appropriate enforcement agency. The owner of the boat is liable for all costs associated with removal.

​Oregon law authorizes the Oregon State Marine Board to establish and maintain an Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Removal Fund. Funds from this account, which are collected from recreational boater titling and registration fees, are used to reimburse public enforcement agencies for expenses related to the removal of abandoned or derelict vessels. The Oregon State Marine Board sets aside $150,000 each biennium in order to provide funds to reimburse up to 90% of the costs associated with investigating, salvaging, towing, removing, storing or disposing of abandoned or derelict vessels, statewide.

Under this program, the last titled owner of the vessel is liable to the enforcement agency for all costs arising out of the seizure and removal of the vessel.

​By-in-large, boats that are seized by the Marine Board or other authorities are rarely in seaworthy condition and often have very little value. The costs of repairs needed to make these boats seaworthy often exceed the boat's worth. Most of the watercraft that are seized were sold for cheap or given away to people without the means to maintain the boat, and they wind up sinking or are abandoned on unauthorized land. The best solution from having to seize the same vessel twice, is to dismantle, recycle and dispose of the boat is the preferred option.

​There are many factors that contribute to the existence of ADVs, but one high-volume source is marinas. Managers of certified Clean Marina facilities are eligible to apply for the new Abandoned Vessel Removal Assistance Program. 

Vessels moored in marinas are often “out of sight, out of mind" for owners who rarely visit them and often fail to keep them registered and insured. When vessel owners stop paying moorage fees, marinas are compelled to take possession of low-value vessels that cost far more to dispose of than they are worth. When these vessels are sold or given away, instead of being properly disposed of, in many cases they end up sinking, beached, or used for illegal camping. These abandoned and derelict boats become a threat to the environment, navigation, and safe recreational boating. ​

In an effort to minimize the hazards and high costs associated with responding to future ADVs, in 2020 the Marine Board proposed an Initiative to remove unwanted abandoned vessels from marinas while the vessels are still securely moored and afloat. Under this initiative, the Marine Board will coordinate the removal of legally abandoned vessels from eligible marinas who adopt a suite of new management practices to help reduce the number of vessels that might become abandoned in the future. Eligible marinas under this new initiative would be those that participate in the Marine Board's Clean Marina certification program and are located along the Oregon Coast and in the lower Columbia River basin.

Marine Board staff submitted a proposal to the NOAA Marine Debris Program and was awarded $50,000 to put toward the new Abandoned Vessel Removal Assistance Program. The Marine Board is contributing a 50% match of $50,000 in ADV funding . This is a two-year NOAA grant. Staff are working on soliciting applications from eligible marinas which will then be scored with the help of agency partners. Vessels will be evaluated and prioritized in the spring of 2021, with removal taking place in the late spring and early summer months. ​

Learn more from the Marine Board's Clean Marina Coordinator on Conservation Cafe's Podcast​!

Abandoned derelict boat in a marinaAbandoned derelict boat that sank

Oregon’s ADV Program is administered by the Oregon State Marine Board, which then delegates authority for the removal and/or disposal of the vessel in question to the relevant enforcement agency under ORS 830.908 to ORS 830.948. The Oregon State Marine Board can be contacted by phone at 503-378-8587 or by email at