Chapter 14.13
IMPOUNDMENT OF VESSELS

Sections:

14.13.005    Vessels which may be impounded.

14.13.010    Notice to owner.

14.13.015    Pre-impoundment hearing.

14.13.025    Impoundment.

14.13.030    Notice of impoundment.

14.13.035    Sale.

14.13.040    When public auction not required.

14.13.050    Emergency impoundment.

14.13.060    Disposition of proceeds.

14.13.005 Vessels which may be impounded.

The harbormaster is authorized to impound a vessel under any of the following circumstances:

A. The vessel is within the harbor and is a derelict or abandoned as defined in this title;

B. The fees for which the City and Borough of Wrangell has a lien on the registered vessel or a maritime lien and charge against the owner and master on a documented vessel are delinquent;

C. The vessel is located in the harbor and is in violation of any rule or regulation of the harbor; or

D. The owner, operator, master or managing agent is not aboard the vessel and the vessel is not properly identified under state or federal law by a name and/or number. [Ord. 871 § 4, 2013; Ord. 625 § 5, 1996.]

14.13.010 Notice to owner.

A. Contents. Prior to impounding any vessel, except with exigent circumstances, the harbormaster shall prepare a written notice of intent to impound the vessel. The notice shall contain:

1. The name and/or official number or state registration number of the vessel;

2. The name and address, if known, of the owner, operator, master or managing agent, the location of the vessel; and

3. The basis of the impoundment.

B. Distribution. The notice of intent to impound shall be, at least 20 days before impoundment:

1. Mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the last known owner and to the master, or managing agent, of the vessel and all lienholders of record against the vessel at their last known addresses; and

2. Posted on the vessel, at the harbormaster’s office, and in the United States Post Office at Wrangell, Alaska. [Ord. 871 § 5, 2013; Ord. 625 § 5, 1996.]

14.13.015 Pre-impoundment hearing.

A. Demand for Hearing. The owner, master or managing agent or any other person in lawful possession of a vessel proposed for impoundment has the right to a pre-impoundment administrative hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to impound the vessel. Any such person desiring a hearing shall file a written demand with the Wrangell borough clerk within 10 days after mailing and posting of the notice of intent to impound.

B. Hearing Procedure. The hearing shall be conducted within 72 hours of receipt of a written demand therefor from the person seeking the hearing, unless such person waives the right to a speedy hearing. Saturdays, Sundays and borough holidays are to be excluded from the calculation of the 72-hour period. The hearing officer shall be designated by the borough manager and shall be someone other than the harbormaster. The sole issue before the hearing officer shall be whether there is probable cause to impound the vessel in question. “Probable cause to impound” shall mean such a state of facts as would lead a reasonable person exercising ordinary prudence to believe there are grounds for impounding the vessel. The hearing officer shall conduct the hearing in an informal manner and shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence. The person demanding the hearing shall have the burden of establishing that he has the right to possession of the vessel. The harbormaster shall have the burden of establishing there is probable cause to impound the vessel. Failure of the owner, operator, master or managing agent to request or attend a scheduled pre-impoundment hearing shall be deemed a waiver of the right to such a hearing.

C. Decision. At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer shall prepare a written decision. The hearing officer shall only determine that as to the vessel in question, either that there is probable cause to impound the vessel or that there is no such probable cause. A copy of the decision shall be provided to the person demanding the hearing, and to the owner of the vessel, if that owner is not the person requesting the hearing. The hearing officer’s decision shall in no way affect any criminal charges involved in such proceedings in connection with the impoundment in question, and any criminal charges involved in such proceedings may only be challenged in the appropriate court. The decision of the hearing officer is final.

D. Bond as Substitute for Impoundment. If the sole cause for impound is for unpaid fees, fines or other charges accrued against the vessel and the hearing officer determines there is probable cause to impound, the hearing officer may allow the owner, operator, master or managing agent to post a cash bond as substitute for impound. The amount of the cash bond must be no less than the total charges accrued against the vessel including but not limited to interest, costs and attorney’s fees. The cash bond must be posted with the borough clerk within 10 days from the date of the hearing. The act of posting a bond does not constitute an admission of liability for the debt or fine. [Ord. 625 § 5, 1996.]

14.13.025 Impoundment.

In the event the hearing officer determines there is probable cause to impound the vessel, the harbormaster may proceed immediately with impoundment of the vessel. The harbormaster may impound the vessel by immobilizing it, removing it or having it removed from the water and placing it in public or commercial storage with all expenses of haul out and storage and an impound fee, pursuant to the schedule listed in WMC 14.11.005, to be borne by the owner of such vessel. At any time prior to the sale of the vessel, the owner, operator, master or managing agent, or person in lawful possession of the vessel may redeem the vessel by a cash payment of all fees against the vessel, including interest and costs, and by correcting any cause cited for impoundment, as described within this chapter. [Ord. 625 § 5, 1996.]

14.13.030 Notice of impoundment.

A. Contents. Immediately upon impounding a vessel, the harbormaster shall prepare a written notice of impoundment and sale of the vessel. The notice shall contain:

1. The name and/or official number or state registration number of the vessel;

2. The name and address of the owner, if known;

3. Description and location of the vessel;

4. The date, time and place of sale; and

5. The fees, interest, and costs which are due against the vessel and the bidding terms provided by WMC 14.13.035.

B. Distribution. The notice of impoundment and sale shall be, at least 30 days before the sale:

1. Mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the last known owner, and to the master, or managing agent, of the vessel and all lienholders of record against the vessel at their last known addresses;

2. Posted on the vessel, at the harbormaster’s office, and in the United States Post Office in Wrangell, Alaska; and

3. Published in a newspaper of general circulation in the borough at least once, but not less than five days before the auction sale. [Ord. 871 § 6, 2013; Ord. 625 § 5, 1996.]

14.13.035 Sale.

A. Method of Sale. Sales will be by public outcry auction. Sealed bids will be accepted and will be read aloud at commencement of the sale.

B. Bids. The minimum acceptable bid shall be a sum equal to all fees against the vessel, including interest and costs to be paid in cash at time of sale. The proceeds of such sale shall be applied to the cost of sale, then to interest, then to fees accrued, and the balance, if any, shall be disposed of per WMC 14.13.060. Upon sale being made, the borough shall make and deliver its bill of sale, without warranty, conveying the vessel to the buyer per AS 30.30.080.

C. No Bids. If at the public sale there are no acceptable bids for the vessel, the borough may destroy, sell at a private sale, or otherwise dispose of the vessel per WMC 14.13.040. The dispossession is to be made without liability to the owner, master or managing agent, person in possession of the vessel, or lienholder of the vessel. [Ord. 871 § 7, 2013; Ord. 625 § 5, 1996.]

14.13.040 When public auction not required.

Public auction is not required when the appraised value of an abandoned vessel, as determined by an independent appraiser, is less than $100.00. The appraiser must have at least one year of experience in the sale, purchase, or appraisal of vessels. Upon that determination and after public advertisement has been made once in a newspaper of general circulation, the state agency or municipality may sell the vessel by negotiation, dispose of it as junk, donate the vessel to a governmental agency, or destroy it. [Ord. 871 § 9, 2013.]

14.13.050 Emergency impoundment.

A vessel causing a threat to health or property, pollution hazard or flight to avoid prosecution or debt may be impounded immediately without hearing. Notice of impoundment and a notice of right to a post-impoundment hearing will be given following procedures in WMC 14.13.030. The owner, operator, master or managing agent or any other person in lawful possession of the vessel has the right to a post-impoundment hearing. The hearing procedure in WMC 14.13.015 will apply to vessels impounded under this section. [Ord. 871 § 8, 2013; Ord. 625 § 5, 1996. Formerly 14.30.040.]

14.13.060 Disposition of proceeds.

The authorized seller of the abandoned vessel is entitled to the proceeds of the sale to the extent that compensation is due to the seller for services rendered with respect to the vessel, including reasonable and customary charges for towing, handling, storage, and the cost of notices and advertising required by AS 30.30.130. A lienholder shall receive priority of payment from the balance of the proceeds to the extent of the lien. Any remaining balance shall be forwarded to the registered owner of the vessel, if the registered owner can be found. If the registered owner cannot be found, the balance shall be deposited with the commissioner of administration and shall be paid out to the registered owner of the vessel if a proper claim is filed for it within one year from the execution of the sale agreement. If no claim is made within that year, the money shall escheat to the state. [Ord. 871 § 10, 2013.]