View Full Version : A floating home is not a "vessel"....

01-17-2013, 05:21 AM
This should stir up a lot of it.....


01-17-2013, 09:22 AM
“Not every floating structure is a ‘vessel.'" "To state the obvious, a wooden washtub, a plastic dishpan, a swimming platform on pontoons, a large fishing net, a door taken off its hinges, or Pinocchio (when inside the whale) are not ‘vessels,’ even if they are ‘artificial contrivances’ capable of floating, moving under tow, and incidentally carrying even a fair-sized item or two when they do so.”

Outstanding. Just outstanding.

01-17-2013, 10:03 AM
The fact that it was obviously not designed to move through water which is evidenced by the lack of any narrowing at either end should be the first clue. Yes it was designed to float but only in one place. No provisions made for the mounting of any propulsion system, second clue. I understand the issue of a boat with motors removed and someone trying to claim it is a home not a boat but in this very clear case the building is just that, a building (and maybe not even a very nice looking one) http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/blog/2013/01/us-supreme-court-rules-fane-lozmans.html
What irks me is that lawyers..some, all, what have you will twist wording to such a degree. I guess there is a reason for all those not so nice jokes

01-17-2013, 11:49 AM
Yeah but suppose someone decides to tie a jonboat to that swimming float, or that casino owner decides to hire a tugboat and relocate; then what?
Many swimming floats, floating homes and probably floating casinos were not BUILT in their current location, so yes they CAN (and at one time did) move.

Hull shape or the lack of a propulsion system are pretty poor measures; there are thousands of barges, drill rigs, and other contrivances that while unpowered, move around on a regular basis.

I think there are going to be some busy lawyers for a while!

01-19-2013, 03:41 PM
Sorry I should have said not designed to move under there own power.
They can be moved but that does not mean they are designed to move through water. By this I mean their stationary consideration is foremost in design.... floating homes not barges .
I politely disagree with your statement of hull shape I would think that is first issue to consider. Barges, drill rigs, Floating homes and other contrivances are indeed crafts but not vessels.
From Wikipedia "The term watercraft covers a range of different vehicles including ships, boats, hovercraft and submarines, and differs from a flotation device such as a log raft."
From the dictionary "Nautical- A craft, especially one larger than a rowboat, designed to navigate on water.
SO perhaps the key word for this case should be is it designed to "navigate"
You are indeed right it will keep the lawyers and the word smiths busy.

01-20-2013, 06:06 AM
so sad when the world resorts to such petty issues to sue over.

Tony B
01-21-2013, 04:26 PM
So, where does that leave the casino issue. Before Hurricane Katrina, the casinos in Ms. had to be towed into the back bay. Then it was decided that the bridges would close at a relatively low wind speed, which I can't remember. With that ruling, it was decided that it was not practical to tow the casinos under the bridges in those winds and so a new law was passed. It stated that it was now OK for the casinos to build a firmer anchoring system so they would not have to move. Great idea until Katrina hit.
Now what about deep water floating oil and gas platforms and drilling rigs? Many drilling rigs are towed because they dont have their own propulsion system yet they still are considered vessels. Floating deep water platforms are not meant to move except for tidal surges. They can't move very far because they are permanently hooked up to oil and gas wells as well as pipelines. They have federal documentation, full time barge captains, etc.
This law will probably be challenged for a long while.

01-22-2013, 01:46 PM
There is a good discussion about this over on boatered. This is all about taxation, not navigation.

Frantically Relaxing
01-29-2013, 02:24 PM
Purely by definition, a "vessel" is a "container". As for a "nautical" vessel: If it was designed to float on water ON PURPOSE, and can carry people or things across water regardless of any other "design", then it should be considered a "vessel"

to quote, "a wooden washtub, a plastic dishpan, a large fishing net, a door taken off its hinges, or Pinocchio are not ‘vessels' " --- I agree, because these objects weren't designed to float, the fact that they CAN float is a symptom of the original design, not PART OF it. However, I would argue that a "swimming platform on pontoons" IS a vessel because pontoons ARE designed ON PURPOSE to float on water, as opposed to say, being lawn ornaments. Therefore, it's a given that anything you attach TO a pair of pontoons , provided it will carry people or objects across water, is now a vessel.

If a house is built to float on water, then by design, it is completely capable of vessel duty, and should be deemed "a vessel". How the supreme court could use doors or trash can lids as examples of why a floating house isn't a "vessel" is baffling. Pretty scary, actually...

BUT- just because it IS a vessel shouldn't automatically render it subject to marine law vs. "land" law. "Permanently anchored" vessels should not be subject to marine law just because they're in the water. One could argue that you can't 'permanently' anchor a vessel, but, permanently anchored homes, churches and other land buildings are un-anchored and moved all the time...

(just my opionions :) )

05-16-2015, 12:47 PM
Very good and*informative*exchange*..*Thank you!

05-20-2015, 10:19 PM
Not really all that informative. I wish I had seen this sooner. I am fairly familiar with this case and with the law that the court interpreted. Under almost all US Federal laws and regulations, Vessel is clearly defined "(a) Vessel. The word vessel includes every description of water craft or other contrivance used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water, but does not include aircraft." This is just one example. The court simply said that this house was not intended to be a means of transportation and thus was not a vessel. They used the old reasonable man test. Would a reasonable man consider this a vessel? They concluded that no a reasonable man would not, they would consider it a house. Frankly this is stuff you learn in business law 101. This case should never have gotten beyond the lower courts.

I am not an attorney but 34 years of enforcing laws for the Coast Guard teaches a person a lot about the law. I think the folks who took this guys house and destroyed it should be charged with a crime as well as remibursing him.