We sat down with our Director Steve Frankland to discuss the current situation around old boats. And how Boatbreakers Marine Recycling End of life boats can start to make a difference.
Currently, it seems to be an acceptable practice to abandon your boat once it reaches the end of its usefulness. Some owners think an end of life vessel still has a value, just like an old rusty broken-down car. So they believe leaving it for the local authorities, marina operators or landowners is doing them a favour. But they are wrong.
An old rusty car no matter how far gone is made of metal that always has a scrap value, therefore, covering recycling costs. Boats, in general, are made of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) that has zero value and once introduced into the dismantling process is considered carcinogenic and very hazardous. On top of this, GRP used in boats has no recyclable use and therefore attracts a negative disposal fee of around £200 per ton.
Adding to these costs are removal from the water, transportation back to a place of disposal and labour charges to dismantle these end of life vessels.
The UK government have not invested a single penny in developing an environmental solution to the disposal of GRP. Quite simply the UK is falling behind in Marine recycling of end of life boats. In Europe they are more advanced in their research. In Germany and Norway they have processes that allows the GRP to be burned and the resultant energy gets harvested reintroduced into the national grid, what’s left is a block of glass that can be melted back down and reused.
Boatbreakers have developed possibly the most cost-effective recycling and training processes here in the UK for end-of-life-boats. Marine Recycling is what we do every day. We have been leaders in the disposal of small craft for over 10 years. Our methodologies and processes are possibly the most efficient in the industry. We advise business leaders on best practice, foreign organisations on vessel disposal and are opening branches throughout Europe and further afield as our finances allow.
This problem isn’t going away. Each year vessel manufacturers build more motorboats, yachts, PWC’s and general watercraft out of GRP. In fact more are being made than are being disposed of. Simply put, marinas are full, boat parks are choc-a-block and land storage is getting more expensive.
In the UK alone industry figures state there are over 690,000 registered boats in use. If we use these figures as an example it breaks down as so.
Roughly 30% are in regular use and not for sale (207,000 approx)
Of the 70% left half are for sale or would be sold if somebody offered enough suggesting 240,000 boats are close to being unwanted.
The remaining vessels (240,000) are unwanted. Half of these are in a marina slowly rotting away with fees being paid until the owner realises it’s just not worth it. Typically, in our experience owners pay up to 5 years of storage/marina fees before finally agreeing to dispose of the boat or disappearing. This suggests there are over 120,000 registered boats in the UK that are beyond economical repair and clogging up waterways, marinas and storage areas right now, and this figure is getting bigger every month.
So ultimately the problem is simple. These identified vessels have no value, the owners have abandoned them and can’t easily be traced and it’s going to cost money to dispose of them.
The numbers suggest that on a monthly basis there are 10,000 boats to be disposed of. A significant issue that we are not even scratching at the surface of and it’s going to get worse.
Boats we are demolishing of today are those made in the 60s and 70s. They were heavily laid up, thick GRP hulls and are tough to break up. As time has passed, technologies used in boatbuilding has improved. However, hulls made today won’t last 50-60 years as they did in the 60s and 70s. At best they are designed to last around 20-25 years.
So this suggests there will be more vessels coming up for disposal before it becomes more manageable. Vessels are being designed to be more recyclable along with the major components fitted. This is a good thing for those boats we will recycle in 20 years. But right now there are thousands that are at the end of their life, are expensive to dispose of and even harder to recycle effectively.
Without investment at government level, this issue won’t go away. Private investors like us are making inroads into cleaning up the waterways of Europe. But we need investment both in technology and in processing.
We are always looking for partners to become part of our solution. Realistically we don’t want to do this alone. We need your help. Can you help us make a real difference?
If you have an end of life boat then organise her disposal today. Just fill in our Scrap Calculator.