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Legislation would hold boat owners accountable
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ATLANTA — State Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) has filed legislation to crack down on boat owners who leave their boats and barges in the water to rot and pollute Georgia’s marshes, lakes and rivers.  
Senate Bill 27, co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Chapman (R-Brunswick), will prohibit any boat owner from obtaining a new registration for any new boat or a motor vehicle registration until they remove or dispose of the vessel.
 “People who abandon their boats need to be responsible for their actions,” Sen. Johnson, who represents coastal Georgia, said. “Just like we cannot just leave our old cars beside the road for someone else to dispose of, people need to get their boats out of the water. The bottom line is they are being irresponsible and costing taxpayers money.”
Johnson said vessel abandonment has become epidemic along the Georgia coast and in other areas of the state where boating is popular. In most cases, there is no insurance coverage or any surety bond to address the removal of the boat or trawler or the debris associated with it.  
Shrimp trawlers are the largest perpetrators of this problem and because of their aging fleet and economic downturn of the industry, few of these vessels are insured.  Insurance companies do not provide coverage on wooden hull vessels, which is the bulk of Georgia's shrimping fleet.
 A conservative estimate based on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement reports indicates there are more than 65 boats, barges, tugs and shrimp trawlers abandoned in the state’s tidal water bottoms.
The cost to remove these boats is anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 each.
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