Forget the Somali Coast – Florida Might be the Sea Piracy Capital of the World

Most modern-day sea piracy occurs near the port of Djibouti, just north of the Somail coast in Africa. The port is near one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, which happens to be adjacent to the near-lawless nation of Somalia. The combination results in regular attacks from desperate pirates looking to hijack ships and steal valuable cargo. But there’s another lucrative pirate market just off Florida’s coast: the maritime salvage and towing business.

In a state where the economy depends on tourists flocking to Florida’s waterways aboard ski boats, fishing boats, charter vessels, diveboats, parasail operators and countless other watercraft, it’s vital that boating and waterborne activities remain within a family’s budget.

But outrageous stories of abuse stemming from from predatory business practices have begun to circulate in Florida’s capital city, far from the relaxing beaches and emerald green waters off the coast of Key West or Destin. Continue reading…

Senate Advances ‘Modern-Day Piracy’ Bill Requiring Marine Towing Estimates

A Senate bill seeking to control overcharging by marine salvage and towing companies passed its first committee Monday — despite some industry concerns.

SB 664, sponsored by Tampa Republican Dana Young, will require written cost estimates — if requested by customers — before a salvage or towing company can provide work costing more than $500.

Young filed the legislation last month to prevent what she called “modern-day piracy.”

“The actions of a limited number of these companies amount to a form of modern-day piracy, and it must stop,” Young said. “Unfortunately, there have been some terrible abuses in a system that many boat owners rely on.”

Young said consumers throughout the state feel “misinformed and misled” by ambiguous salvage claim fees that pop up when a boat owner requests last-minute aid on the water — particularly in a state such as Florida with an abundance of waterways and boating. Continue reading…

Bill Requiring Estimates for Servicing Disabled Boaters Passes First Stop

TALLAHASSEE – A Senate bill that would require marine salvage and towing companies to provide an estimate for towing disabled watercraft back to shore passed its first committee stop despite opposition from some groups.

FL SB664 (18R) would require the written cost estimate if requested by customers before providing salvage work costing more than $500. State Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa) said in November that she was filing the legislation to prevent what she calls “modern-day piracy.” Continue reading…

Lawmakers File Legislation to Bring Price Transparency to Florida Boaters

In the November edition of Coastal Angler Magazine, I highlighted the stories of boaters who have been victimized by a handful of maritime salvage and towing companies. While it’s been my experience that most of these kinds of companies operate with a high level of professional integrity, some of them resort to predatory practices to rake in substantial fees for so-called “salvage claims.”

In one boater’s story, the salvage claim bill was more than $30,000 for minor assistance that took less than five minutes. And this was no fly-by-night operator making this outlandish charge, it was a popular national company. Now two Florida lawmakers from the Tampa Bay area have taken a strong interest in this issue, and they recently filed legislation (Senate Bill 664 and House Bill 469) that would require all maritime salvage and towing companies to provide a written estimate to boaters. This is clearly a common-sense idea that should sail through the Florida Legislature. Continue reading…

An invented state of peril: How one salvor cashed in on “Pirate Booty” after Hurricane Irma

I’ve spent the last 40 years as a boater, and I certainly enjoy spending time on the water. I live part of the year in the Florida Keys, and that’s where I keep Pirate Booty – the Gulf Star Viking boat I’ve owned for several years.

Earlier this year, when news broke that Hurricane Irma could be heading toward Florida, I was understandably concerned. But I took the necessary precautions and made sure my boat was secured at the marina and prepared for the worst – even while I held out hope that the massive storm would shift course. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Keys on September 10. Continue reading…

Florida Maritime Attorney Discusses Issue of Modern-Day Piracy

Due to a loophole in federal admiralty law, maritime salvage and towing companies are able to take advantage of Florida boaters by charging exorbitant fees for salvage claims.

Tampa attorney Paul Parrish specializes in maritime law and has represented multiple clients who have be been charged by predatory salvage and towing companies.

“In some cases, it can be likened to modern day piracy,” Parish said. “Unfortunately the laws that are in place do not provide the consumer protections Floridians are used to when they’re on land.” Continue reading…

Florida legislators file bill to combat domestic “Modern Day Piracy”

Ahoy matey!

The state of Florida appears to have a ‘pirate’ problem along its many miles of coastline.

While Florida is too far for Somali pirates to reach with there dilapitated sea vessels, and Captain Jack Sparrow seems to be too drunk to even find, let alone navigate his “Black Pearl” to in our direction, who are the pirates threatening Floridians?

Would you believe that maritime salvage and towing companies who offer boaters assistance, if and when they find themselves in a jam while on the high seas, are the alleged pirates? Continue reading…

Florida Lawmakers Propose Legislation Aimed at Protecting Boaters From “Modern-Day Piracy”

When Eric Hull called out a maritime salvage and towing company to get some water out of his boat, he had no idea what he was getting into. He thought it was a minor job.

But when he received the bill, Hull was shocked. It was anything but minor.

“A few weeks later I received a bill for $30,000 for what amounted to ten minutes worth of work on my boat. All they did was put a hose onto my boat and pump some water out,” Hull said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was appalled this could happen.”

The Brandon resident was a victim of what two Florida lawmakers call “modern-day piracy” carried out by some maritime salvage and towing companies. Continue reading…

Legislation filed to protect boaters from salvage ‘piracy’

TALLAHASSEE — Eric Hull says he was billed last year by a boat salvage and towing company $30,000 for a 10-minute job of pumping water from his boat.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Hull said. “I was appalled this would happen. I thought, ‘This is not right.'”

Hull told his story on Tuesday during a news conference in the Capitol to announce legislation intended to protect boaters from paying exorbitant fees for salvage and towing.

S.B. 664 and H.B. 469 would require marine salvage and towing companies to provide a written cost estimate if requested by customers before providing salvage work costing more than $500. The final bill may not exceed the estimate by more than 20 percent. Continue reading…

Florida Lawmakers Announce Legislation Targeting “Modern-Day Piracy” by Bringing Price Transparency for Florida Boaters

Florida’s boaters will enjoy greater peace of mind on our state’s waters thanks to legislation filed by Sen. Dana Young and Rep. Shawn Harrison. The related bills, SB 664 and HB 469, would require maritime salvage and towing companies to provide boaters with the option of a written cost estimate before rendering assistance on the water. The legislation aims to put a stop to the predatory practice of those salvage operators who provide relatively minor assistance to boaters and then charge outrageous fees by labeling the service a “salvage claim.”

“The actions of a limited number of these companies amount to a form of modern-day piracy, and it must stop. Unfortunately, there have been some terrible abuses in a system that many boat owners rely on,” Sen. Young said. “Consumers throughout the state have felt misinformed and misled by vague salvage claim fees that crop up when they request assistance on the water. This legislation will give Florida boaters the transparency they expect, and the confidence they deserve, in the maritime salvage and towing industry.” Continue reading…