End-of-Life Boats panel points to solutions...

A good number of visitors came to the I-nnovation Lab stage on the opening day of METSTRADE to hear a lively debate around the subject of End-of-Life Boats featuring a panel of experts from the industry.

Albert Willemsen the Environmental Consultant from ICOMIA opened up the session by referring to the previous two conferences dedicated to the subject at METSTRADE in 2015/16, and saying that real progress had been made as a result of more awareness of the problems, and positive actions in various countries.

Neil Chapman from Boatshed yacht brokerage network explained how his company were exploring ways of making old boats attractive to new owners at very low prices, thus attracting vital newcomers to take up boating. He argued that frequently older boats are still very usable, and have not actually become real candidates for end-of-life disposal!

Pierre Barbleu from APER boat dismantling network in France explained how the French government are introducing an Eco Tax on all newly registered boats from January 2019, and adding some government financing to create a new fund. The APER network will be able to use this money to subsidise their work, and increase the number of boats it is able to dispose of from 600 a year currently to 6000 a year from 2019.

Regarding one of the biggest challenges that our industry has had to face, with the virtually indestructible nature of GRP composite hulls, there was good news from panelist Dr Albert ten Busschen  from the polymers faculty at Windesheim University in Holland.

Albert showed the audience a sample of a remanufactured panel material which has been made from strips of composite waste from dismantled boats by combining with another resin. The material could easily replace many applications presently using wood which has a limited life span. For instance the remanufactured panels which are fully waterproof and fully recyclable at end-of-life have been successfully used in a trial to line the banks of canals in Holland, replacing the previously used African hardwood.

Jeroen van den Heuvel the membership manager from HISWA the Dutch Marine Industry Association,  said that their marina members in the Netherlands had now updated their terms and conditions for boat owners.  This gives the harbour master  the legal right to take over ownership of boats that have been abandoned for more than 6 months and to sell it to recover the cost is disposal.

Plans are being considered for a mobile service to visit Marinas in Holland which can collect old boats and ensure that they are disposed of responsibly through approved methods.

A very successful and fully approved yacht dismantling and recycling business is already disposing of some 350 boats a year in Holland. Bootjessloperij 't Harpje in Enkhuisen run by Bram van der Pijll was mentioned several times by the panel members, who have been impressed with the operation when visiting it.

It was also mentioned that future legislation is likely to introduce the concept of 'product stewardship', meaning that boat builders would have to issue a green passport with a new yacht, and be responsible for its eventual disposable in line with circular economy principles.

Speaking for the European Boating Association representing millions of boat owners and users, Willem Dekker said that it's very unfair that the last owner of a boat, who is often the least well off, should have to be responsible for the cost of its disposal.

Willem urged all the other boating associations, user groups and various stake holders to come together and form a dedicated ELB working group. Saying that now we have some serious solutions evolving, and that joint representations to the EU Commission could be made, with plans for a more coordinated approach in future.

  • Sounds like a productive session. Was there any discussion of what will be done with the many boats destroyed by the hurricanes in the Caribbean this year?

  • Thanks for your comments . ---Indeed I think everyone left with a sense that progress is being made. On Thursday I had a meeting with Sandrine Devos the Secretary General of Brussels based European Boating Industry. She promised to do her best to create a working group of boating associations and stake holders to consult with the EU Commission on solutions for ELBs going forward.  

    The subject of boats destroyed by hurricanes in the Caribbean was raised via a question from the floor,  and some discussion took place as to whether insurers could avoid total write offs in some cases, where boats may be still structurally sound, and could possibly be renovated to usable condition.  The question of how and where this could be enabled was not addressed.

    Please keep us informed of any developments that you know of in the US and Caribbean.

  • Hi Peter,

    Pontoon and Dock Ltd have looked into ELB's in the UK and find the cost's associated , (Cranage, Transport away, Recycling Centre, Removal of metallic parts, then crushing and cutting up then disposal of waste or up cycling) prohibitive, we see in the grand scheme of things recycling is a must now ! There are yacht carcasses and motorboat hulls all over UK yards and canals and rivers. Pontoon and Dock would be pleased to be on some form of working group helping to clean up our Oceans, Seas and Waterways.

    Kind regards


  • Hi Peter,

    There were some questions about number of boats and waste material flows involved. We did a research on that in The Netherlands. An English summary of the report can be downloaded from our website (www.wa-yachtingconsultants.com/.../end-of-life-boats-in-the-netherlands.html).

    Best regards,

    Reinier Steensma

  • Many thanks for your interesting comments.  Indeed the picture generally on ELB's seems to be that the main barriers to progress are financial and logistical. Even with some interesting composite recycling (or upcyling) schemes becoming more commercially viable, the questions of 'who pays' and how is the last owner of the boat held accountable are still the most challenging.   Pierre Barbleu from the APER disposal network in France confirmed during the debate that from every ten quotations his organisation issues, only one gets taken up by the owner. This tells its own story and mirrors your account of the situation in the UK; that far too many boats are simply being dumped irresponsibly.  

    As an industry that hopes to grow and thrive in the future, surely we have to collectively grasp this problem of the past, and come with some practical, implementable solutions.  At least the French are trying to show the way with a coordinated national scheme, and a proposal to provide the necessary funding!  Your offer to contribute your knowledge and time to a working group is appreciated, and I will let you know when I hear more about the progress with that.  

    I can tell you that I had a meeting with the Secretary General of Brussels based European Boating Industry organisation when I was in Amsterdam,  and she assured me that she is prioritising on bringing together other associations such as ICOMIA and European boating Association, together with other stake holders, in order to represent our industry towards the European Commission, and to contribute to their Circular Economy plans for the leisure marine industry in Europe.  

  • Many thanks for contributing the link to your comprehensive survey data. I think this is one of the most complete studies that has been carried out, and although it relates specifically to the Netherlands, I'm sure that it gives a very good indication of the scale of the challenge we are facing generally across our industry. In particular the data predicting that the ELB situation will peak significantly in volume terms between 2025 and 2030, gives a strong indication that we as an industry should be sure to put effective measures in place without delay!  

    And as has pointed out, the recent hurricane damage in the Caribbean has unfortunately accelerated the numbers of potential ELB's globally in the immediate term.