TITLE 23

Navigation and Waters

CHAPTER 13. VESSEL PROPERTY


Every vessel owned by a citizen or citizens of this State shall be subject to the control of the vessel's owner, if there be but 1, or, if such vessel be owned by several jointly or in common, the vessel shall be subject to the control of the owner or owners of more than a 1/2 half part.

The owner or owners of such share may discharge the master of such vessel, though the master be a part owner, and may maintain a civil action against the master to recover possession of the vessel if the master refuse to deliver the vessel to the owner or owners or to an agent, and recover damages for the detention.

If such master, upon being discharged, refuses or neglects to deliver to such owner or owners of more than a half part, or to an agent, on demand, the vessel with all the vessel's papers, tackle, apparel and furniture, the master shall be fined $100.

Code 1852, §§ 1236-1238; Code 1915, § 2989; Code 1935, § 3482; 23 Del. C. 1953, § 1301; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

Whoever forcibly, fraudulently or secretly takes or attempts to take and remove any vessel from any harbor, river, creek or sound within this State, on any pretense whatever, shall be fined not more than $500, and shall restore to the owners the vessel and cargo or the full value thereof.

Code 1852, § 1239; Code 1915, § 2990; Code 1935, § 3483; 23 Del. C. 1953, § 1302.;

(a) A person finding or having in that person's own possession a vessel that was adrift or abandoned, or any lost, abandoned, or stolen property relating to a vessel, shall turn the vessel or property over to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for disposition pursuant to subsection (b) of this section.

(b)(1) Notwithstanding § 8026 of Title 29, whenever a vessel or property relating to a vessel comes into the custody of the Department and the person entitled to possession of the vessel or property cannot be located and fails to claim possession for a period of 6 months, the Secretary of the Department may dispose of the vessel or property at public sale at a place which is convenient and accessible to the public, provided that the time, place, and terms of the sale, together with a description of the vessel or property, are published in 1 or more daily newspapers in the State at least once each week for 2 successive weeks prior to the sale. The Secretary shall, in the Secretary's discretion, fix the terms of sale and may employ an auctioneer to conduct the sale. If the vessel or property is of a kind for which a certificate of title or registration has been or should have been issued by the Department, the Secretary shall cause notice by registered mail to be sent at least 10 days before the sale to the owner and lienholder, if any, shown on the records of the Department, or to the person entitled to possession of the vessel or property, if the person's address is known or if it can be ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence. If an address cannot be ascertained, then notice under this paragraph is not required to be given.

(2) Notice pursuant to this subsection is not required when an abandoned vessel or property relating to a vessel is removed in an emergency situation which creates an actual or potential hazard to navigation.

(c) The proceeds from any vessel or property relating to a vessel sold pursuant to subsection (b) of this section must be placed in the General Fund, but only after any liens on the vessel or property are paid and any expenses incurred by the Department or by the person who turned over the vessel or property to the Department are paid. Reimbursable expenses include all direct expenses associated with the seizure, removal, transportation, preservation, storage, and disposal of a vessel or property relating to a vessel.

(d) For purposes of this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:

(1) "Abandoned vessel" means:

a. A vessel that has been left illegally or has remained without permission for more than 30 days on public property, including public marinas, public docks, and public boatyards; or

b. A vessel that has been found adrift or unattended in or upon the public waters or public subaqueous land of the State, and is found in a condition of disrepair that constitutes a hazard or obstruction to the use of public waters or subaqueous land of the State or that presents a potential or actual health or environment hazard;

(2) "Department" means the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control;

(3) "Vessel" means every description of watercraft, other than a seaplane, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water or ice.

(e) The Department may seize, remove, transport, preserve, store, and dispose of any abandoned vessel or property relating to a vessel. For this purpose, the Department may use its own personnel, equipment, and facilities or use other persons, equipment, and facilities. The Department may not be held liable for any damage to an abandoned vessel or property relating to a vessel which may occur during seizure, removal, transportation, preservation, storage, or disposition.

(f) If an abandoned vessel or property relating to a vessel is in such a condition of disrepair that the Department cannot remove it intact, the Department may dispose of it in whatever manner is reasonable without providing the notice required under paragraph (b)(1) of this section.

(g) The Department may delegate to any local jurisdiction the Department's authority under this chapter to seize, remove, transport, preserve, store, and dispose of abandoned vessels and property relating to a vessel.

(h) This § 1303 and § 1304 of this title do not apply to archaeological resources, including shipwrecks embedded in or located on the State's subaqueous lands, which are regulated by the Department of State, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs pursuant to Chapter 53 of Title 7.

64 Del. Laws, c. 242, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; 75 Del. Laws, c. 153, § 13; 76 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 1.;

(a) Abandoned vessels and property relating to vessels on the strand on private property, such as private waters, private subaqueous land, private marinas, private docks, and private boatyards, may be seized, removed, transported, preserved, stored, and disposed of by the Department pursuant to the provisions of this chapter upon written request to the Department by the private property owner, if the Department receives funding to provide such a service.

(b) Subsection (a) of this section does not apply to:

(1) A vessel whose owner has not complied with the terms of a financial agreement to pay docking, mooring, storage, or similar fees at a private marina, dock, boatyard, or other nautical facility, yet allows the vessel to remain at the marina, dock, boatyard, or other facility;

(2) A vessel whose owner trespasses on private property by leaving that owner's vessel in another person's boat slip or dockspace without the permission of the other person.

76 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 2; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

A person who abandons a vessel or property relating to a vessel on public or private property for more than 30 days or who violates any other provision of § 1303 or § 1304 of this title is subject to a civil penalty of not less than $100 nor more than $500 for each offense. In addition, the sentencing official shall order the person to reimburse the Department for all expenses incurred by the Department in the enforcement of §§ 1303 and 1304 of this title, including seizure, removal, transportation, preservation, storage, and disposal expenses of or for abandoned vessels and for property relating to a vessel. Superior Court has jurisdiction over violations of this chapter.

76 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 3.;