DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
PETER T. YOUNG, CHAIRPERSON
Phone: (808) 587-0401
Fax: (808) 587-0390
For Immediate Release:
New Law Allows State To Take Fast Action
HONOLULU— A new law signed by Governor Linda Lingle authorizes the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to take steps for immediate removal of a vessel grounded on living coral reefs.
In situations where the vessel is in imminent danger of breaking up, and in which the vessel owner or operator cannot remove it, Act 134 (SB2360 SD2 HD1 CD1) will allow a state official to step in and assist in the removal of the vessel to a safer location, without liability to the State.
“The Department has learned by sorry example that just one tidal cycle can drive a boat hard aground and compound both the cost and damages to the environment,” said Peter Young, DLNR chairperson. “Time is of the essence, and this law allows the state to expedite action to lessen those impacts.”
“Boat owners or vessel operators, unfortunately often do not appreciate the gravity of the matter, the effects of tide and wind, and moreover do not understand the ultimate consequences to the living structures of a coral reef,” Young said.
There were five vessel groundings in state waters in the last four months of 2005. Although the responsibility (and cost) of vessel removal is the owner’s, DLNR was faced with the task of making arrangements for removal of the wrecked vessels from the coastline in at least three of these instances. In some instances arrangements to remove the vessel could not be made until the owners were located and contacted by the state.
DLNR harbormasters compared their experiences with grounded vessels, worked on a draft bill, and then submitted it for action. The boating community suggested broadening the bill to include a "good Samaritan" clause that covers the public when they pitch in to help out.
The law makes clear that all costs and expenses of the removal, and damages to state or private property, are the sole responsibility of the vessel owner or operator. In instances where the vessel owner or operator refuses to assume all financial responsibilities, the Department may take legal action to collect any costs or expenses incurred by the Department for any removal.
The law also clarifies that the operator of a vessel may also bear the cost of removal and environmental damage if it has been deemed that the person was solely responsible for grounding a vessel on state submerged land, shorelines, or living coral reefs.
The State’s intervention in these instances is justified by the ability of state officials to assist or direct the removal process, muster resources possibly unknown to the vessel operator, and the knowledge of safer locations for the vessel.
The law provides immunity from liability for state official’s actions, and to any agent who assists at his or her direction, assures that there will be no hesitation in the rendering of aid to the grounded vessel; and that private parties with resources to assist in the removal will be willing to come forward and assist.
The law also incorporates a “good Samaritan” section, giving the boating community assurances those good acts, made in good faith, that help to protect our marine environment, will be protected.
Vessel groundings on more benign structures, mud flats, sand bars, or beaches, will be given a more moderate time frame for removal, as less damage is being done to the environment in those locations, unless the vessel is breaking up -- at which point immediate action is called for.
# # #
For more information, contact: