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Ocean & Coastal Resource Management (OCRM)

Marine Debris Initiative

Abandoned Vessel Removal

Marine debris is a serious threat to South Carolina's marshes, creeks and rivers. Beyond being eyesores, abandoned vessels may damage the marsh and oyster beds, degrade water quality and impair the safety of navigation and recreational use of the waterway. Debris may also threaten wildlife populations if pollutants such as oil and gasoline are leaked. The preservation and restoration of working waterfronts and scenic views is also often a cornerstone of local coastal economies.

Since 2004, DHEC has worked with federal, state and local partners to leverage the removal of over 90 abandoned vessels from coastal waterways stretching from Horry County to Hilton Head. However, this program does not relieve boat owners from their responsibility to properly manage and dispose of their vessels.

Identification, Reduction and Prevention through Community-based Education and Action

In 2009, DHEC partnered with the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and other organizations to enhance public awareness of the abandoned vessel problem and to recruit volunteers to assist with the identification and preliminary assessment of abandoned vessel sites. Once verified by DHEC staff, the detailed inventory of sites will be used to raise awareness among stakeholders and decision makers and support future removal funding requests.

New: Report an Abandoned Vessel online

Towards the Future

Keeping South Carolina's waters free of marine debris and abandoned vessels will continue to be a daunting challenge. In order for our efforts to succeed, a long-term strategy must be developed and implemented. DHEC will continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to:

Cooper River Trawler
Removal of an abandoned shrimp trawler from the
Cooper River near Charleston (2004).

Abandoned Vessel Site Evaluation Criteria
  • Proximity to shellfish beds and other sensitive areas
  • Presence or potential for oil/fuel pollution
  • Navigational hazard
  • Impaired recreational use of waterway
  • Economic impact to recreation and tourism
  • Legal and/or regulatory authority to remove
  • Public interest
  • Lack of success through routine enforcement means
  • Aggressively pursue and hold accountable those parties responsible for abandoned boats and marine debris;
  • Establish a recurring funding source for removal when no responsible party can be found;
  • Construct framework consisting of local, state and federal government cooperation and participation from the general public must be created to secure ongoing funding and draft new laws and/or ordinances to manage future marine debris issues;
  • Educate South Carolina's citizens about the negative effects that abandoned vessels and marine debris have on our coastal environment;
  • Ensure availability of proper disposal options.