Virginia Passes Boater-Friendly Title Law
THE STATE OF VIRGINIA became the first state in the nation to adopt a boat- titling law incorporating consumer protection mechanisms already com- monplace for motor vehicles. In passing the Uniform Certificate of Title for
Watercraft Act in February, lawmakers gave Virginia boaters a tool that makes it
easier to identify previously damaged boats, recognize the legitimate owner in a boat
sale transaction, and prevent the sale of stolen boats.
“While two-thirds of the states have titling laws that cover boats, they can vary
state to state in what is recorded on that title, leading to potential for error or even
fraud,” reports Nicole Palya Wood of BoatU.S. Government Affairs. Wood said the
Virginia law is based on model legislation approved by the National Conference of
Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. “That means, as other states adopt it, this will
create a uniform system of boat titling that will be recognized nationwide and by the
U.S. Coast Guard.”
The law requires a vessel title to clearly label any significant structural damage to
the boat such as might be found in vessels severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
By “branding” such titles for damage, buyers will know to carefully consider a vessel’s
condition, and that information can also alert the next buyer and subsequent buyers,
whether they are local or across the country.
“In states that don’t currently issue vessel titles, a stolen boat can be sold using
a fraudulent bill of sale or forged registration document,” Wood said. “Uniform titling
will help prevent such transactions and that protects the owner of the stolen boat and
the potential buyer.” Now that Virginia is leading the way, Wood said non-title states
can adopt the uniform law and the others can use it to make existing laws conform for
the benefit of all boating consumers. — R.L.
PHOTO: U.S. NAVY/ GEOFFREY TRUDELL
Hannah M. Bell, is popular with snorkelers as well as scuba divers
because it’s in only 25 feet of water on Elbow Reef, six miles offshore.
The 315-foot British freighter grounded there on April 4, 1911, carrying
a load of coal to Mexico, and a May storm tore the wreck apart, mak-
ing positive identification difficult.
Working with underwater archaeologists
from NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary
program, the volunteer divers took mea-
surements and photos of the wreck for
comparison with known vessel records.
“Similar to the way detectives use forensic
information to solve a crime, we compared
the dimensions and construction charac-
teristics with historic records,” said NOAA
maritime archaeologist Matthew Lawrence.
“Measurements of the shipwreck and the
records for Hannah M. Bell were virtually
identical, as were the reported sinking loca-
tion and actual location of the wreck.” — R.L.
PRUDENT MARINERS KNOW
that electronic charts are only as
good as the survey data entered
in the computer program. The
U.S. Navy discovered a sobering
example of that when the USS
Guardian grounded on a coral reef
in the Philippines last January 17.
According to news reports, a Navy
Close But … 9 Miles?!
spokesman said the U.S. National
which prepares the Navy’s digital
charts, reported the reef location
on the chart as off by nine miles.
And the ship? It had to be cut up
and taken off Tubbataha Reef in
sections to avoid further damage
to the coral. — R.L.