OLYMPIA, Wash., July 1 -- The Washington State Department of Natural Resources issued the following news release:
With the goal of avoiding costly taxpayer-funded clean-up of large sunken vessels and their contamination of public waterways, starting today a new state law requires owners to have insurance for vessels 65 feet or longer and 40 years or older.
The new law, approved by the state legislature and announced today by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), also requires an inspection of a vessel's condition before sale. The law applies to both commercial and private vessel owners.
"In recent years, the public has paid millions of dollars for hauling, cleaning up pollution and disposing of older, larger vessels that have sunk and contaminated the public's aquatic lands," said DNR's aquatic resources manager Kristin Swenddal. "We want to address the problem earlier in the life cycle of these vessels, when it is less expensive. The new requirements are designed to place responsibility on vessel owners, and significantly reduce the potential financial impacts to the public."
Marine survey and proof of insurance before sale of vessel
The new law affects both seller and buyer of a vessel:
The seller of a vessel more than 65 feet in length and 40 years or older must provide the buyer with marine survey inspection information before they transfer the title, and the seller must see proof that the buyer has secured marine insurance coverage for the vessel.
A buyer of a longer old vessel must secure marine insurance and provide proof of coverage to the seller, and either the Department of Licensing upon registration, or the Department of Revenue upon paying any taxes, if applicable. This marine insurance requirement applies only to new owners at the time of title transfer, not to existing owners who acquired the vessel before June 12, 2014.
Potential consequences if buyer doesn't comply
A seller who chooses to finalize a sale with a buyer who has not provided proof of a marine insurance policy, assumes secondary liability for the vessel if the vessel is later abandoned by the buyer or becomes derelict prior to a later ownership sale. It is a misdemeanor for a buyer who fails to secure and maintain the minimum marine insurance coverage. But most importantly, they will incur liability for the vessel if it becomes damaged, derelict or abandoned. In addition, their moorage facility may cancel their moorage agreement for noncompliance.
The State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) may contact any vessel owner required to have an insurance policy to ensure compliance with this legal requirement.
More detail about new vessel inspection and new marine inspection requirements
DNR's website www.dnr.wa.gov has a Long Vessel Inspection and Insurance webpage with more details about the new requirements. The laws about vessel inspection requirements, effective July 1, 2014 are in revised RCW 79.100.150. The laws regarding marine insurance requirements that were effective June 12, 2014 are in revised RCW 79.100.
DNR: Steward of state-owned aquatic lands
The 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands (mostly submerged) are a public trust, managed and protected by DNR for the people of Washington. DNR manages these lands to protect fish and wildlife and to facilitate commerce, navigation, and public access. Revenue is generated from the sale of renewable resources, such as wild geoduck, as well as from leasing submerged lands for mooring buoys, marinas, docks, and other uses. This revenue is used to manage and protect the health and productivity of aquatic resources and to fund local projects that restore aquatic ecosystems and create public access to the waters of the state.
DNR's Derelict Vessel Removal Program is the state's key mechanism to address the problem of derelict or abandoned vessels in Washington's waters. Derelict or abandoned vessels put public safety and the health of our marine and fresh waters at risk. DNR administers the Derelict Vessel Removal Account, which provides funding and expertise to help public agencies remove and dispose of vessels across the state.