At Boatbreakers, we were recently asked to answer some questions from Asia Pacific Boating Magazine for an article they are writing about boat disposal and end of life boats. Below is a copy of the questions and our answers.

1/ In my research, it seems that transportation costs for taking these decommissioned boats from the site to shipyards take up the majority of the expenses, does Boatbreakers include said costs in your quotes? I ask because it seems you guys serve customers based in the UK and Europe and give on-site appraisals.

Transport costs do contribute a large portion of the price it takes to get a boat disposed of. As I’m sure people will understand boatyards and boat transport companies don’t move these boats for free and they’re treated like any other boat move. When we give someone a quote to dispose of their boat we will give them two prices, one which includes the cost of transport and removal and another if they get the boat to us.

In terms of on-site appraisals, we usually rely on the owner of the boat giving us an idea of where the boat is located along with pictures of the boat they send to us. If we went to visit every boat we were offered it would add further travel expense costs. As we cover the whole of the UK and most of Europe getting boats back to us in Portsmouth can sometimes be costly.

2/ For boat owners who do employ your services, what drives them to come? As it seems like there isn’t a lot of incentives/punishment for boat owners to do this at the moment

We deal with all sorts of boats and it’s not always the boat owners we are dealing with. It can also be councils, harbour authorities, marinas, boat yards, and insurance companies. Responsible boat owners will come to us for a trusted solution on disposing of their boat, lots of people will come to us but then try and give their boat away for free or cheap to shift on the problem. The biggest reason people want us to take their boats is usually that mooring fee renewals are imminent, they know they barely use the boat, they’d rather sell but it would take time so they have the choice of paying a year’s mooring fees upfront or pay the cheaper price for us to take the boat away.

There are very little incentives/punishments to stop people just dumping the boat which we think should change as then it’s taxpayers money that is being spent to clear up the mess through the council and eventually by us.

3/ In my research, it seems that the hardest part of the end-of-life process is reusing FRPs, as it’s a compound that is hard to reuse/recycle. What do you guys do with the material? Japan & Norway have come up with a recycling method where FRPs are turned into cement feedstock/thermal energy, I assume this isn’t widespread yet/ easily duplicated in many countries?

GRP is the biggest problem we face. In the UK at the moment there are very few places that will take the waste material and those places are only landfill sites. When we get a boat in we will strip it down, remove the metals and other materials leaving the waste fibreglass which is then crushed.

We would love to learn more from the Norwegians about their recycling process as if we could find a use for the end of like GRP the whole process would be much more environmentally beneficial. One of the major problems with the GRP in boats is that there are layers of different materials in between the layers of GRP which make it hard to separate. Most of the European countries have had lots of discussion about the end of life process and there is supposed to be a network of Boat Breakers all around Europe but we still get lots of enquiries from all of the other European countries which always makes us think the network isn’t as good as it appears to be online.

4/ One of the criticisms for why boat recycling isn’t efficient is because there isn’t a market for these recycled materials, do you agree with this and how do you think this will change in the next, say, 10 years?

I completely agree that the lack of a market for the waste material is a major issue. There are a number of things that will have to happen before boat recycling is an efficient process in the UK. There needs to be research into viable solutions for the waste GRP. There needs to be more places around the UK that can take end of life boats, which will help to bring down the price by reducing transport costs. If there was more of a market for the waste materials from the boat then more companies might source the end of life boats to sell on, in turn helping to deal with the problem of the old boats. This will also reduce the costs further for the boat owners as the waste disposal cost can be removed from the quote, making the boat disposal much cheaper.

In all honesty in the next 10 years I’d be surprised if much has changed in the industry as many people seem to just ignore the problem or at least not be aware of it. What is likely to happen is GRP being banned from landfill in the UK which will cause a massive headache for anyone looking to dispose of an old boat.

5/ It seems like the ELB issue is an endless blame game. Governments blame that there isn’t a registry of boat owners, making them and subsequent derelict boats hard to track. Taxpayers say there are no legislations that forbid illegal sinking, abandoning, which means they are ultimately paying the bill. The marine industry will always oppose to imposing a disposal fee: where do you think the conversation should start?

You’re right it is a blame game at the moment the boating industry is booming and pumping out lots of new boat into the market. However the first batch of GRP boats from the 70s/80s are starting to come to the end of their life and soon the waterways and harbours will be clogged with boats that are floating scrap. The conversation we think needs to start on two front, firstly we think that there should be some sort of boat insurance taken out on every boat that helps to cover the cost of the eventual disposal cost. The boat builder and every owner of the boat throughout her life pays in each year so that when the time comes that the boat needs to be scrapped it’s not just the last owner who is left to foot the bill.

Also, we think the industry should be investing in research for the GRP reuse issue as if an answer is found for that problem it would make the who problem a lot easier. This would be due to the cost coming down dramatically and therefore hopefully many more boat owners would dispose of their boat in the right way.

6/ What are the biggest challenges when dealing with ELBs?

Every boat we deal with is different and represents different challenges. Some boats may have sunk, have no engine, need towing and lifting, may be completely rotten and dangerous to transport, boats in the water, boats in boatyards, in gardens, in muddy fields and the list goes on. End of life GRP is obviously a headache but one that will hopefully be sorted with the right research and investment.

Our biggest challenge is to keep the costs down to make the whole process an affordable one for the customers. Because if we don’t we’d very quickly go out of business and there would be very little help for boat owners who want to do the right thing when disposing of their boat.