How to Dispose of Your Vessel in Hawaii

Posted on Apr 27, 2023 in Main

You’ve had your boat for years and it’s shown wear and tear. Perhaps you inherited a boat from your parents that has been sitting on a trailer in the yard for years.  Maybe you rammed into a hidden reef and now the cost of repairs exceeds the value of your vessel.  There are a great many scenarios that could lead you to the conclusion that it’s time to let go of a boat rather than invest many hours and thousands of dollars in repairing it, just to use it occasionally. 

Proper vessel disposal is a vital part of clean and responsible boating.  Because there are environmental hazards associated with vessels, including oil, solvents, batteries, and other toxic wastes. It is important that all vessel owners properly dispose of their vessels at the appropriate time and in the proper way. 

It’s illegal to obliterate the Hull ID number on a vessel to remove evidence that verifies ownership. Never abandon or sink a vessel to dispose of it.  Never set one adrift.  Not only do these vessels pose an environmental and navigational hazard on our state’s waterways but it is also illegal.  Abandoned, Derelict Vessels (ADVs) become marine debris, and marine debris hurts the ocean, all marine life and all of us.

Now that Hawaii is a title State, all vessels that are registered must have a title, like a car.  One of the primary reasons why Hawaii became a title state is to track ownership of a vessel and improve the department’s ability to track and abandoned, derelict vessel back to the owner of record.   

Hawaii does not currently have a vessel turn-in program like some states.  We do not have a State sponsored disposal program, so the owner is responsible for selling, donating the vessel, giving it away, disposing of it or commissioning disposal of an unwanted vessel.

This document is meant to provide some guidance and options for disposing of your vessel 

If you choose to dispose of your vessel, BEFORE you begin the process, it’s a good idea to download and review the DLNR/Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation Change of Status form to see what kinds of information must be reported after disposal is completed.  See the section titled After The Fact at the end of this document for more details.   



Of course, this is one of the preferred options, especially if your vessel still has perceived value.  You can list a vessel you no longer want for sale in the newspaper, Craigslist, Ebay, etc.  However, you never want to simply sell the vessel and walk away.  You should take the extra precaution of making sure the buyer completes transfer of the registration and requests a new title for the vessel.  The reason for this is that some unscrupulous people in the past neglected to transfer the registration of the vessel into their own names. They used the vessel for a time, then abandoned it.  Sometimes a buyer will run the boat aground and walk away.  Or perhaps, the trailer was all the buyer really wanted.  They transported the boat and trailer to a remote area, pushed the boat off and took the trailer.  If you are the immediate past owner of such a vessel, all evidence would lead to you.  The property owner, the County, the State, would all require you to remove and dispose of the vessel.  So, if you sell your vessel, make sure the registration and title are legally transferred into the buyer’s name.   



Just like for selling a vessel, the advice on donating a vessel or giving it away is the same.  Make sure the registration and title are legally transferred to the recipient of your donation.  Some, but not all, vessels given up for adoption are accepted by local charities.  You must do your own research to find a charity willing to accept your donation.  The side benefit of donating your boat is a tax deduction.  For current listings, try searching the Internet for “donating a boat in Hawaii.”  The web site for does intake on motorboats, sailboats, yachts, houseboats, trailers and Waverunners.  The National Kidney Foundation will also accept boats.  Those are just two of the numerous agencies listed on the Internet. 

The Marine Education Training Center on Oahu has accepted vessels to be used in their programs, providing vocational training to individuals in rebuilding, remodeling and refurbishing vessels. Those who train in these programs become shipwrights.  There may still be in existence in Hawaii, a few entities that do the same, but on a smaller scale.   

You can always announce that you are giving a boat away through a newspaper ad, fliers, Craigslist, Ebay, etc.  

Unless you have a sizable boat with a metal hull, it’s not practical to expect any agency to accept it as a donation and purposely turn it into an artificial reef.  There are many conditions that must be met and many permits that are required.  



There was a time when you could clean off your vessel if it’s under a certain size, remove the engine and fuel lines and push it into the landfill.  On Oahu, at least, that option is now gone. 

If you would like to dispose of your vessel on your own, the H-Power plant MAY accept your vessel if it is cleaned of all hazardous materials (oil, fuel, batteries) and cut up into three foot sections and delivered to the H-Power incinerator.  Three-foot sections are as big as the plant’s grappling hook can manage.  You must be careful while cutting up your vessel.  The Hawaii Department of Health will have issues with fiberglass dust being released into the environment.  You can expect to pay “tipping fees” for taking cut-up sections of your vessel to H-Power.  You also should call and verify you can still do this with the management at H-Power.  Procedures come and go and are revised from time to time. 

For boaters on the neighbor islands, call your County Waste Management agency to see what your options are.  You may still be able to put a clean boat into the landfill. 

ALL parts of your boat must be disposed of properly. 

Remember that there are laws prohibiting the scuttling of boats as a method of disposal.  Sunken boats can do an enormous amount of damage to our reef system.  Wave action can break up a vessel and litter our shorelines.  Responsible parties will be held accountable. There are hefty fines for damaging live corals.



Perhaps the most expensive but most thorough method for disposing of a vessel is to commission an entity to dispose of it properly on your behalf.  This would mean that the disposal is conducted in an environmentally sound manner and in accordance with all pertinent laws.  Just make sure the vendor is properly licensed and you receive evidence that the job is done.  There have been instances where a vessel, thought to be demolished, was taken from a dumping ground, rebuilt and re-registered.  This was proven by the HIN on the vessel. 

Sometimes, a vessel made of metals (steel) can be recycled.  You may be able to reduce the cost of the disposal by the value of the recycled, raw materials. 



If you have given away your vessel, donated it or sold it and it’s no longer in your possession, you should have executed a change in title and made sure it has been re-registered by the new owner within ten (10) business days. 

If you yourself disposed of your vessel or it was destroyed by a contractor, once the job is done, you are required to submit a “Change of Status” form to DLNR’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation to indicate that your vessel has been destroyed.  The information is entered into DOBOR records and you are no longer responsible for the vessel.  Visit DOBOR’s form page at to access and download a Change of Status form.  Please note that unless the hull is destroyed, cut in half, or crushed and proof is provided that the hull is unusable, DOBOR may not accept your change of status form.  Too many vessels thought to have been destroyed have been salvaged, rebuilt and have been brought to DOBOR for registration and numbering.  

You must report the change of ownership, change of address, destruction, and disposal of a vessel within five (5) business days (Hawaii Administrative Rule 13-241-11).  If you are getting rid of a boat and the trailer, remember that registration for the trailer resides with the County.  Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles on how to dispose of a trailer or remove your name from the title and registration. 



DLNR/DOBOR has taken numerous steps to make sure the owner of a vessel takes proper care of a vessel at every stage of its life, especially when its usable lifespan is at a close.  Vessel titling, mandatory insurance, mandatory education, vessel registration and numbering, Hull Identification numbers, Hawaii’s 72-our rule are all part of the plan to make sure the owner is responsible for his/her/its vessel.  If these strategies are not enough to cope with the volume of vessel that are abandoned, set adrift, appear on mud flats or on the shoreline, DOBOR may need to institute a fee tied to registration and/or titling to cover the cost of disposing of these vessels or may resort to other methods for managing ADVs. The key to avoiding this from happening is responsible disposal of vessels.

How to Dispose of Your Vessel in Hawaii is published by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation as a service to Hawaii boaters.  The most recent update to the content of this informal guide was made on 12/15/2021.