Maryland Abandoned Boat and Debris Program

Abandoned boats and debris in state waterways can pose a hazard to navigation and to the environment. As part of its commitment to clean, safe and enjoyable recreational boating on Maryland waterways, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides reimbursable grants and expertise to assist public agencies in the removal of abandoned boats and hazardous debris from state waters.

DNR personnel pulling debris from the water, also a photo of an abandoned boat on a beach 

How to report an abandoned vessel or hazardous debris

  • ​To report an abandoned vessel or debris hazardous to motorized vessels, contact the Maryland Natural Resource Police (NRP) by calling 410-260-8888. An NRP officer will follow up and contact you and if deemed appropriate, an investigation will be conducted and the officer will provide additional guidance.
  • To report hazardous debris, such as fuel or propane tanks, call the Maryland Department of Environment at 1-866-633-4686.

If the public encounters any debris from the Key Bridge incident please contact the Debris Reporting Hotline at +1 (410) 205-6625.

How is the program funded?

Funds for the program come from the state Waterway Improvement Fund which is generated from the one time 5% excise tax paid to the State when a boat is purchased and titled in Maryland.

Grant eligibility, applications, and amounts

  • Only authorized public entities in Maryland (i.e. local governments, municipalities, etc.) with ownership, management or jurisdiction over the aquatic lands where the vessel or hazardous debris is located may apply for grants. Abandoned boats must be proven to be abandoned in accordance with Natural Resources Article §8-721 (see below). Debris that poses a hazard to navigation or limits access to a public boating access facility or a shipping channel is eligible for removal.
  • Applications are accepted in July and funds are obligated immediately upon approval of the grant application.
  • AB&D grants are 100% reimbursable. Applicants can apply for up to $25,000 for abandoned vessels and debris removal. Reimbursement is contingent upon compliance with all terms and conditions of the grant.

The Law

Read the full text of the law regarding abandoned vessels in Annotated Code of Maryland


The Process

Once a vessel is determined to be abandoned, the title to the vessel can be acquired.

Use these forms to claim abandoned vessel


For more information on licensing and registration, click here to contact a Department of Natural Resources Service Center.


Request for Bids and Eligible Contractors

Periodically the department posts requests for bids (RFB) for the removal and/or disposal of vessels determined to be abandoned and/or derelict in accordance with Article §8-721. The department posts bids on the Department of Natural Resources Bid Board and distributes them to contractors listed in our Abandoned Boat Contractor database.

Only contactors who are registered with the Maryland Department of General Services Small Business Reserve Program are eligible to bid. Select vessel and debris removal projects require contractors to be registered Marine Contractors with the Maryland Department of the Environment, only registered contactors are eligible to bid.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is an abandoned vessel?
An abandoned vessel as defined in Natural Resources Article §8-721(a), Annotated Code of Maryland is a vessel that has remained at a location without the owner or person in control of the property’s consent:

  • More than 30 days on public property, including public marinas, docks, or boatyards
  • More than 30 days at a private dock or near water’s edge on private property
  • More than 6​0 days at a private marina or boatyard or property operated by a private marina or boatyard
  • More than 180 days at private property other than those described above.

How do I report an abandoned vessel?

To report an abandoned vessel, contact the NRP Communications Office at 410-260-8888.

How is the ownership of an abandoned vessel determined and what are the consequences for abandoning a vessel?
The last known, registered owner shown on the Certificate of Title issued under §8-715 of the Annotated Code of Maryland shall be considered Prima Facie owner of a vessel at the time it was abandoned and the person who abandoned it.

  • Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, the person is subject to a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both.
  • Any person found guilty of a second or subsequent violation of provision of this section is subject to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both.
  • Any person who violates any provision of this section is liable to the State for the cost of removal of the vessel.
  • The provisions of this section do not apply to a vessel wrecked through an Act of God or negligence of a third party.

    How do I look up the owner of a vessel I am trying to claim?

    Request a Copy of Vessel Record