Crews continue to mitigate pollution threats from vessels displaced by Hurricane Irma

Coast Guard Marine Science Technicians Petty Officer 1st Class Tonya Mulhern, left, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Hewlett assess damage to a vessel in Jacksonville, Florida caused by Hurricane Irma, Sept. 13, 2017. Hundreds of vessels have been reported as damaged or have sunk around the Floridian coast as a result of Hurricane Irma's force. Teams consisting of federal and state response members are assessing the potential risk of pollution from these vessels. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony L. SotoMIAMI – Cleanup efforts and removal operations of displaced vessels are progressing throughout Florida waterways seven weeks after Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys.

The Unified Command for the response—officially titled Emergency Support Function 10 (ESF 10) Florida—consists of leaders from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Currently, 1,492 displaced vessels have been removed from Florida waterways. Nearly 230 people from state and federal agencies are involved in the disaster response.

Responders are prioritizing the removal of vessels based on environmental impact.

“Responders are actively removing displaced vessels that pose a potential environmental threat,” said Cmdr. JoAnne Hanson, Coast Guard Incident Commander for ESF10 Florida. “Vessels that are actively leaking are our top priority and we are working with the vessel and property owners, using Florida state laws, to determine the best method to mitigate the impacts of Irma on a vessel-by-vessel basis.”

Vessel owners are encouraged to hire a salvage company to recover their vessels in order to provide the safest removal method possible for the public and environment. Owners wishing to remove their own vessels are encouraged to visit the following website for guidelines and best practices http://myfwc.com/boating/vessel-hotline/removal.

Owners of displaced vessels who lack the resources to have their boat repaired, or if their vessel is determined to be beyond repair, may release ownership of their vessel through a waiver provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The waiver process can be initiated by contacting FWC through the Vessel Removal Hotline at 305-985-3744 and requesting to turn over a displaced vessel. An FWC representative will then contact the owner to explain the waiver process and facilitate the potential turnover of ownership.

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