A solution to the problem of end-of-life boats and how to dispose of them could be on the horizon

A working party has been set up by the European Boating Association (EBA) to look at the issue of end-of-life boats and how they should be disposed of.

Discussions are already underway 
with the European Boating Industry and Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The RYA, which is part of the EBA, said the group would be meeting in January 2019 to look at the legacy of existing end-of-life glass reinforced plastic (GRP) and composite boats 
and how future designs could take into account dismantling and the use of recyclable materials.

The RYA’s cruising manager, Stuart Carruthers said the RYA has long recognised that despite considerable advances in waste management, there was a ‘compelling need for specific measures related to management, scrapping and recycling of GRP boats.

‘The RYA would be supportive of any UK scheme that the UK Government and industry may introduce to ease the financial burden of disposing of boats that are beyond economic repair and whose owners no longer have any use for them. The cost of dealing with the legacy problem is a significant factor and one of the main reasons that progress on resolving this issue has been so slow,’ he added.

Carruthers said the EBA’s working group would seek the views of key stakeholders, such as boatbuilders.

Around the UK, abandoned boats blight harbours and waterways, and cause issues for sailing clubs, which are often left to deal with yachts abandoned on swinging moorings.

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The UK Harbour Masters’ Association (UKHMA) told YM that while it didn’t have an exact figure for the number of boats discarded in UK harbours, it was a growing problem.

The association’s executive officer, Peter Moth said the main difficulty was the lack of facilities where anti-fouled wood or old GRP mouldings could be environmentally, safely and cost-effectively broken up and scrapped. Even fewer offer recycling options.

‘Additionally, the market for older boats appears to be shrinking — fewer young people want the expense or hassle of maintaining a boat — and 
the value of such craft diminishes rapidly without an active second-hand market and therefore becomes a burden on the owner. Finally, it is relatively easy to totally erase all 
traces of a boat’s identity prior to abandonment, thereby making it very difficult to track down previous owners of abandoned vessels,’ he stressed.

He said the UKHMA would welcome a UK-wide scrapping scheme but questioned how this would be funded, as there is little viable use for recycled GRP, and harbour authorities, particularly municipal harbours, ‘have extremely tight budgets’.

The EU has previously carried out studies into the problem of end-of-life boats, such as the BOATCYCLE project, which ran from 2010-2012 and looked at developing new treatment, management and recovery methods. None of them addressed the issue of funding a scrapping scheme.

It is also unclear what impact Brexit would have on the latest discussions by the EBA.

In 2018, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM) found €300,000 (approx £267,238) in subsidies to pay for 
500 boats under three tonnes to be scrapped and recycled free of charge. The owners just had to pay the transportation costs.

Researchers have calculated that 
the average cost of conventionally dismantling a 7m (23ft) boat including logistics 
is €800 (approx £712); €1,500 (approx £1,336) for a 10-12m (33-40ft) boat; and €15,000 (approx £13,361) for boats over 15m (50ft).