The Stop Sea Piracy campaign was established to advocate for reasonable reforms and price transparency that would give Florida’s boaters a greater peace of mind on our state’s waters. Thanks to many of the campaign’s advocates and Florida lawmakers Sen. Dana Young and Rep. Shawn Harrison, legislation was introduced during the 2018 session targeting the unethical practices of disreputable maritime salvage and towing companies.
The Stop Sea Piracy bill was passed overwhelmingly by the Florida House of Representatives and advanced through seven committees, but unfortunately did not become law this year. However, the campaign was tremendously successful in raising awareness for an issue that affects so many Floridians, gaining support from legislators who are committed to bringing transparency and accountability to the maritime salvage and towing industry and peace of mind to Florida’s boaters.
The fight for safe boating and price transparency will undoubtedly continue. We are confident that Florida’s lawmakers will persist in their efforts to fight for Florida’s boaters and we are excited to keep advocating for consumer protections. We encourage individuals who have had unfair experiences with these companies to submit their stories on the website.
Nobody likes to get scammed out of thousands of dollars, but that’s unfortunately what happens on Florida’s waters, according to Rep. Shawn Harrison.
That’s why he is sponsoring the Salvage of Pleasure Vessels Act, HB 469, which passed its final committee stop in the House yesterday, clearing the Government Accountability Committee easily with a 21-2 vote. Harrison’s legislation would help shut down a predatory and scammy practice where some maritime salvage and towing companies will provide assistance on the water to recreational boaters without disclosing the potential costs beforehand.
That wouldn’t be so bad, except that the costs of these services – which sometimes take only minutes – can range wildly from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, and most boaters have no clue what they’re getting themselves into. The Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Dana Young, has called the practice “modern-day piracy” and many of the large commercial salvage companies have staunchly opposed the added consumer protections.
House Bill 469’s splash at the House Government Accountability Committee Tuesday afternoon worked out to whether people consider boat salvers to be heroes or pirates.
They may appear to be heroes when they’re pumping out someone’s pleasure boat to keep it from sinking, and then maybe towing it back to safety, and possibly saving lives while they’re at it.
But when it’s time to pay the cost of the rescue?
The typical salvage award, based on centuries of maritime practice and law, is 5-10 percent of the boat’s value, attorney Rod Sullivan told the committee.
So when Eric Hall of Tampa got a letter from a lawyer demanding he pay a salver $30,000, for what Hall said was less than 10 minutes of pump work on his boat, House Bill 469 and its counterpart Senate Bill 664 were inspired. The sponsors state Rep. Sean Harrison and state Sen. Dana Young, both Tampa Republicans, said the bill was to combat “modern-day piracy.” Continue reading…
By Juan Rojas
As the president of charter yacht company, I own a number of yachts and boats at two of the largest marinas in Miami. Our knowledgeable captains, crew, and staff work hard to provide our clients with a memorable experience each time they reserve one of our luxury yachts. And to ensure an exceptional and worry-free experience, we have established agreements with local maritime salvage and towing companies – just in case.
We initiated memberships with these companies to safeguard our vessels in case they encounter any minor issues or, in the worst case, an emergency situation. Recently, however, these salvors have taken advantage of my captains’ trust in their services.
A few months ago, for instance, one of my captains was in charge of a chartered 43-foot Marquis Yacht when he experienced issues with the vessel’s bilge and strainer. Following protocol, the captain notified a local maritime salvage and towing company to help drain the water from the bilge. This vessel was safely anchored and not in peril, but because we had an existing agreement with the company, the captain called for assistance. Continue reading…
TALLAHASSEE — A $30,000 bill from SeaTow started Florida fishing boat owner Eric Hull’s campaign for a state law aimed at stopping maritime assistance services from charging what he and others believe are exorbitant and hidden fees for help on the water.
“I’m the reason for this legislation,” Hull said. “I just couldn’t believe this was legal.”
But SeaTow and other maritime assistance services are pushing back, claiming their terms of service are clearly spelled out in membership agreements like the one Hull had signed with SeaTow. Routinely, those memberships cost from a little more than $100 to nearly $200 annually, for services including towing, on-water jump-starts, bringing fuel for an empty gas tank, or freeing a grounded boat.
At the root of the conflict over the legislation is admiralty law, the federal law that governs maritime salvage operations. In some instances, such as damage that could lead to disastrous consequences for a boat, or rough weather that puts maritime assistance personnel in danger, that law comes into play. In those instances, assistance companies can charge fees to boat owners that can be as much as the value of the boat. Continue reading…
When you’re out on your boat and there’s a problem, it can be a scary situation. Trust me, as a salvage operator who has worked in South Florida waters for more than a decade, I’ve seen countless situations where boaters have required assistance. But needing help shouldn’t be an invitation to get ripped off by a predatory operator, and that’s why I support legislation to provide additional price transparency for boaters.
The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Dana Young and Rep. Shawn Harrison, is currently being considered by the Florida Legislature. It would require maritime salvage and towing companies to give boaters a written estimate before providing service. This is important because many boaters aren’t aware of the costs of some of these services or what situations constitute a salvage claim. Continue reading…
When you’re out on your boat and there’s a problem, it can be a scary situation. As a salvage operator, I’ve seen countless situations where boaters have required assistance. But needing help shouldn’t be an invitation to get ripped off by a predatory operator, and that’s why I support price transparency legislation for boaters.
The legislation would require maritime salvage companies to give boaters an estimate before providing service. This is important because many boaters aren’t aware of the costs of some of these services or what situations constitute a salvage claim. Continue reading…
As an avid recreational boat owner and sixth-generation Floridian, I know there’s no better way to enjoy our state’s spectacular waters than taking your boat out.
And I’m certainly not alone — Florida is home to almost 1 million registered boats, and every one of them has an owner who delights in our beautiful coastline and lakes. Unfortunately, the fun of boating can be spoiled when predatory companies take advantage of a boater in distress.
Many boaters pay for memberships with maritime salvage and towing companies in order to be covered for services like fuel delivery, towing and so on. But sometimes these companies seize on the opportunity to unfairly classify assistance as a “salvage claim,” a classification that lets them charge outrageous and unexpected fees based on the value of the boat, not on the value of their actual services. These fees can sometimes end up costing tens of thousands of dollars for what should be a relatively simple job. Continue reading…
For many boaters, the term “salvage claim” may be an unfamiliar one, but for me it was a costly reality that I experienced last fall.
On September 10, Hurricane Irma made landfall on the Keys damaging many boats, including my own. My boat was secured in a Marathon marina and, although it fared better than many, the hurricane blew some of the hatches off and brought a significant amount of rain, allowing water to get caught in the bow of my vessel.
Approximately four weeks later, I decided to call a maritime salvage and towing company to help remove the excess rainwater. Continue reading…
Marine towing and salvage
Help against modern-day piracy
As an avid recreational boat owner and sixth-generation Floridian, I know there’s no better way to enjoy our state’s spectacular waters than taking your boat out. Unfortunately, the fun of boating can be spoiled when predatory companies take advantage of boaters in distress.
Many boaters purchase memberships with maritime salvage and towing companies in order to be covered for helpful services. But sometimes these companies unfairly classify assistance as a “salvage claim,” a classification that lets them charge outrageous fees.
But here’s the real shocker: Because the cost isn’t disclosed up front, these companies can stick boat owners with extreme salvage fees after the fact. This is a case of powerful companies preying on the vulnerable and unsuspecting — an act of modern-day piracy. I recently met with a constituent who was charged $30,000 after one salvage company spent less than 10 minutes providing assistance. Continue reading…