Abandoned boat towed away from Biloxi beachfront

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS   (WLOX) -  The Tiger Shark leaned helplessly against a tug boat, waiting for the next leg of its long journey.  Curious people gathered at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor Tuesday morning to watch the steel-hulled shrimp boat being hauled away.

"It's kind of an eyesore, but it was kind of neat to see it when it was here," said Dr. Shea Allen of Ocean Springs.

"It was an interesting process to watch as they were dredging alongside of it. Get some deeper water I suppose to make it float," said Karen Sterrett, who was fishing nearby.

It took two days to dredge the Mississippi Sound so a barge and tug could start towing the beached boat out to the channel.

"Because it was so close in to the beach, and it had buried itself into the sand," said Irvin Jackson, Director of the Mississippi Derelict Vessel Removal Program.

Jackson spent ten frustrating months trying to find the boat owner. Then, he had to get a judge's permission to remove the abandoned vessel from the Biloxi beachfront.

"It was a hazard just sitting here," said Jackson. "As a matter of fact, there were homeless people coming aboard this boat and sleeping at night and of course, young people could climb on it and get hurt."

Now, the rusty boat will have a new home and a new purpose. It will dock temporarily at a Pass Christian boat yard so it can be cleaned and used as an artificial reef somewhere in the Mississippi Sound.

"It makes me feel great!" Jackson said with a smile.  "I started to hire a band, but couldn't get here in time. I'm that happy, yes."

"It was neat seeing it there on the beach every day as landmark," Sterrett said. "But I know if a storm came, it would cause damage to homes there on shore.  It needed to go."

The DMR and The Mississippi Gulf Fishing Banks paid $32,000 to have the Tiger Shark removed, cleaned, and turned into a fishing reef.

A DMR agent says the agency is seeking a court judgment against the owner of the boat -- Rocky Lee Curtis.  The judgment could force Curtis to pay $500 a day for every day that the boat was derelict.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.