Most modern-day sea piracy occurs near the port of Djibouti, just north of the Somail coast in Africa. The port is near one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, which happens to be adjacent to the near-lawless nation of Somalia. The combination results in regular attacks from desperate pirates looking to hijack ships and steal valuable cargo. But there’s another lucrative pirate market just off Florida’s coast: the maritime salvage and towing business.

In a state where the economy depends on tourists flocking to Florida’s waterways aboard ski boats, fishing boats, charter vessels, diveboats, parasail operators and countless other watercraft, it’s vital that boating and waterborne activities remain within a family’s budget.

But outrageous stories of abuse stemming from from predatory business practices have begun to circulate in Florida’s capital city, far from the relaxing beaches and emerald green waters off the coast of Key West or Destin. There’s the nearly unbelievable tale of the boat owner who was a member of a popular sea salvage company. He called them to pump water from the bow of his boat, aptly named “Pirate Booty,” which was never in any danger of sinking. The salvage company simply showed up (weeks after Hurricane Irma) with a pump in the back of a pickup truck, connected it up, and let it run for two hours. The total bill: $13,750. More details here:

I want to underscore that my boat was not in any immediate danger. It sustained no leaks and more than five weeks had passed between the day when the hurricane hit and when this opportunistic salvor showed up to provide assistance. I signed no forms, and was shocked to see a bill for $13,750 for just a couple of hours of work and an eventual tow to a different marina. The final bill was eventually negotiated down to $11,000, but that is still an unbelievable fee for relatively minor assistance when neither my boat nor I were in any danger – and I already had a membership in their company.

His full story is on StopSeaPiracy.com, a website that showcases many other abuses wrought by maritime salvage operators, including another boater who was charged $30,000, also for pumping water from a boat. The group is asking Florida lawmakers to make a simple change in the law. S.B. 664 and H.B. 469 would require marine salvage and towing companies to provide a written cost estimate if requested by customers, before providing salvage work costing more than $500. The final bill may not exceed the estimate by more than 20 percent.

The proposal will be heard in committee later today in the Florida Capitol.