By Terry Gibson:
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 transparency in a written estimate to boaters. This is clearly a common-sense idea that should sail through the Florida Legislature. After all, when you bring your car to a mechanic, Florida law requires that you receive an estimate about what it will cost. It’s hard to argue that boaters on the water shouldn’t have those same consumer protections.
The legislators who are being such good friends to boaters are State Senator Dana Young and State Representative Shawn Harrison. Their legislation would require that whenever the cost of a service could exceed $500, the salvor must provide a written estimate that discloses the cost to the boater.
Boaters love the freedom of the open water, and it’s important that everyone understand that the legislation does not implement some new over-aggressive government regulation. The proposal does not in any way regulate what these companies may charge or force them to provide services they don’t want to. Thanks to a very simple half-page form, it will make sure boaters can have the costs disclosed up front, so they can make an informed decision.
We’ve all heard the joke that “a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money.” The truth is, boaters love the water and have made a thoughtful, informed choice to devote some of their resources to this joyous pursuit. They shouldn’t be victimized by those who would take even more of their money for no good reason. The proposed legislation will put an end to some unwelcome practices, and boaters throughout Florida should do what they can to see that this proposal becomes law.