Derelict Vessels Causing Problems on Local Waterways

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Abandoned boats are becoming bigger problem in Bay County. The Panama City Police Department's Marine Unit is stepping up its efforts to track down the owners of the derelict vessels and hold them accountable--otherwise the taxpayers are left holding the bag.

Not too many people are proud of "Henry's Pride". The abandoned fishing boat is one of about forty vessels currently threatening navigation of Panama City waterways. When anchor lines come loose, it can cause the vessels to break free, posing a risk to surrounding boats and property.

Once police issue violation notices, the owner has 90-days to secure or remove the vessel; about half comply. The city has to pay for removing the rest, which can cost thousands of dollars.

"Funding becomes an issue. As far as priorities, unfortunately, it comes down to a dollar amount, what vessels can we afford to remove" says Lt. Robert Luther of the Panama City Police Department's Marine Unit.

Panama City has received some federal grant money. Those that the city can afford to remove are often cut up for scrap but some worry the eyesores produce a much higher, uncalculated cost.

"It gives the area a black eye, you have all of these beautiful cruising waters and you got them clogged up with derelict vessels, long term anchors and maybe people aren't as anxious to come here as they would normally be" says Panama City Marina Director Bill Lloyd.

Police say they're also having a problem with homeless people using the derelict vessels for living quarters.

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