Boaters left holding the bag for uninsured vessels - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Boaters left holding the bag for uninsured vessels

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Meghan Statts Meghan Statts
Charles Barclay Charles Barclay
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Divers and crew from marine salvage company Sea Engineering spent the day retrieving pieces of the 25-foot sailboat that sank off Magic Island Sunday - the latest uninsured vessel to ground in the state that the state has to pay for.

"It could be anywhere up to $20,000 or more," said Meghan Statts, district manager of DLNR's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

This year there have been 33 boat groundings in Hawaii. More than half the vessels were uninsured boats. The state has paid $95,500 in salvage costs and billed the owners. But the collection rate is next to nothing.

"Some of these people don't have the type of funding to take care of these kinds of situations," Statts said. "We'll move forward. We'll take it to the credit bureau. We'll go after them as best as we possibly can."

But the state must pay the salvage company up front. That cash comes out of the state's boating special fund - money from boat owners' mooring fees, ramp fees and vessel registrations.

The cash could have gone to harbor improvements.

"They may not see it right away, but it leads to things like not replacing lights, or not doing parking lot repairs, or not doing dock repairs. Eventually we as boaters pay for it, and eventually taxpayers pay for it," Kewalo Basin Harbor Master and boat owner Charles Barclay said.

Boaters with mooring permits who dock in state owned facilities must carry boat insurance.

"It's the other boats that are not moored within our facilities that we end up dealing with that don't have the insurance. And when the boat grounds, that comes down to the boaters having to pay for that," Statts said.

She believes requiring all boaters to have insurance and making boater education mandatory could create responsible owners and reduce salvage costs now born by the boating special fund.

Since 2002 the fund has paid $481,218 for groundings of uninsured vessels off Oahu, $886,480 statewide. The salvage of the sailboat off Magic Island just adds to the bill.

 

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