“Trying to Turn a Toothache into a Root Canal”

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.

As the owner of Fast Response Marine Towing and Salvage, I know better than most the cost and risk involved in sending a crew and vessel out to help a distressed boater. Those costs can vary greatly depending on the situation, but boaters should be aware of the fees so they can make an informed decision.

Companies like mine provide a valuable service, helping thousands of people every year. For example, last year I helped transport a group of school children to safety when their tour boat began taking on water off Miami Beach. I’ve also recently helped a stranded couple who were stuck on the capsized bottom of their boat, and a family who needed their sailboat pulled off a sandbar on Father’s Day.

Still, I believe our industry as a whole is unfairly portrayed. Despite these positive stories, many see the salvage industry as a shady service looking to capitalize on others’ misfortune. This is because of the dubious actions of a number of shady operators who give the rest of us a bad name.

Too many times, I have arrived at a stranded boat that could easily be towed off a sandbar – only to find that another company beat me there and is having the boat owner sign a salvage form without disclosing the price. Those boaters frequently get stuck with bills for tens of thousands of dollars more than they expected, and it’s truly unfortunate and avoidable. That is one of the reasons I always try to provide customers with multiple options and a clear estimate of the costs beforehand. It’s simply the right thing to do.

Before having my own company, I worked for two of the large national marine salvage and towing companies and some of the smaller companies based in South Florida. One individual I met there described his job as “trying to turn a toothache into a root canal” in order to extract higher fees. I couldn’t tolerate that business philosophy, and my experience at some of those companies led me to start my own business.

Ultimately, I believe Florida’s boaters deserve the opportunity to make an informed decision. That’s why I’m so thankful for this legislation, which would bring a welcome dose of transparency and accountability to our industry.

They say a rising tide lifts all boats. I believe this legislation will lift the perception of the entire industry – an industry that truly does a lot of good for boaters who find themselves in a jam.

Captain Chuck Hansen lives in Miami and is the owner of Fast Response Marine Towing. He has been in the maritime salvage and towing industry for more than 14 years.