Congress seeks to end 19th century regulation of marine salvors
The House and Senate have passed a bill that would repeal a law requiring marine salvors in Florida to obtain a license from a federal judge.
According to a statement from John L. Mica, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the legislation was needed to eliminate “an outdated law that outlived it purpose a long time ago. With this bill, we remove a layer of red tape and ensure that there will be one less hoop for vessel operators in Florida to jump through.”
He said the bill repeals a provision, dating back to the 1820s. Mica’s office said wreckers, now generally known as salvors, provided assistance to ships in trouble in exchange for a portion of the vessel’s cargo. In the early 19th century, some argued that these wreckers provided assistance to ships unnecessarily and then demanded a portion of the vessel’s cargo.
So federal judges were given licensing authority over wreckers. Why federal judges? Because, at the time, the primary federal presence in Florida was the federal judiciary.
Mica’s office said the licensing requirement fell out of use early in the 20th century and that today salvage vessels operating in Florida and their crews are regulated under U.S. Coast Guard safety, inspection, crew licensing and environmental standards — just like any other vessels operating in U.S. waters. It adds the Justice Department has determined the provision requiring a federal judge to provide the license is unconstitutional. The bill, S.2482, has been sent to President Bush.