Abandoned Pleasure Boats: Make Registration of Mooring Sites Mandatory for Owners

The fact that pleasure boats are being abandoned in ports and rivers for long periods has become a problem. This is due to the current legal system, which allows people to own boats even if they have not secured a place to moor them, a situation that must be reviewed.

Owners of motorboats and other pleasure boats increased during the bubble economy in the 1980s and 1990s as the popularity of marine leisure activities grew. As the boom faded, the number of abandoned boats grew, reaching nearly 100,000 in fiscal 2010.

Abandoned boats not only spoil the scenery, they hinder vessel navigation and cause problems for fishermen. In the event of a disaster, there is also the risk that the boats will run aground and damage buildings.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the government set a goal of reducing the number of abandoned boats to zero by fiscal 2022, but the figure reached 56,000 nationwide last fiscal year, far from the goal.

When local governments try to move abandoned boats, they are often unable to find contact information for the owners. This is because people are not required to register a specific moorage location to own a boat, unlike getting a parking space certificate when purchasing a car.

The structure of the system is such that when owners die, relocate or resell their boats, abandoned boats are created.

Local governments urge owners to be morally responsible and stop abandoning their boats, but this will not solve the problem amid these circumstances. It is obvious that the legal system is inadequate.

Hiroshima Prefecture, which has one of the highest numbers of abandoned boats in Japan, passed an ordinance requiring all pleasure boat owners to notify the prefectural government of the mooring location of their boats. The ordinance also stipulates penalties for failing to follow procedures when notifying the prefectural government or changing locations and for not complying with the prefectural government’s administrative guidance.

Hiroshima Prefecture is seeking legislative revisions, arguing that it is undesirable that measures for the issue are different among prefectures. The central government should move toward realizing this.

Disposal of abandoned boats costs about ¥200,000 per boat. In principle, the owner of the boat should bear the cost, but if the owner is unknown, the local government has no choice but to use public funds to dispose of the boat.

However, many local governments are said to be reluctant to do so due to lack of budgetary resources. It may be necessary for the central government to provide financial support.

It is also essential to raise awareness among boat buyers and dealers. Boat ownership and securing mooring should be clearly recognized as being one and the same.

If boat manufacturers and dealers introduce a system in which they add a recycling fee when selling boats to customers and take the boats back free of charge when they are given up, it would help reduce the number of abandoned boats. There is room to consider such measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 2, 2023)