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Putting yachts in the cycle instead of in ‘boat graveyards’

The Netherlands – ‘Between 6000 and 9000 yachts and similar leisure boats are abandoned every year in Europe,’ said Mirna Cieniewicz at yesterday’s Yacht Recycling Conference held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The European Boating Industry delegate went on to lament: ‘Right now, there are no mandatory recycling rules for small vessels; the Hong Kong Convention only includes big ships.’

Cieniewicz also told delegates in the Dutch capital: ‘Our industry cannot guarantee a steady – let alone a daily – stream of materials to recyclers.’ She also suggested that ‘skill gaps’ within the dismantling community are deserving of more attention. Yachts contain electronics as well as a multitude of materials and substances, such as paint, steel and fibreglass. ‘So we must not underestimate the complexity of this particular waste stream,’ Cieniewicz stressed.

Boat graveyards

According to Roberto Perocchio of ICOMIA Marinas Group, around 10% of boats in European marinas are not in regular use while 2% of all boats go out of use every year, ending up in so-called ‘boat graveyards’. Sending vessels to landfill is ‘complicated and very expensive’, he said. ‘We need a clever solution.’

Globally, harbours are home to around 40 million leisure boats. ‘There are 72 500 end-of-life boats in the Netherlands now,’ said Geert Dijks of Dutch maritime organisation HISWA. ‘This equals 14% of the total fleet, which totals over 1.5 million vessels. A problem, of course, is that at least 32% of the material is glass-reinforced plastic.’

Like the automotive industry

A possible circular approach would be to remanufacture parts, suggested Carla Demaria of the Italian marine industry association UCINA. She drew parallels with the automotive industry but acknowledged that the yacht sector is far smaller. ‘Take Renault for example,’ she said. ‘It remanufactured over 200 000 parts at a site in France in 2013. The quality was the same as the original parts, and that operation saw a turnover of Euro 100 million that year.’

France was said to have dismantled 4000 boats since 2009, while a government-backed programme in Japan had enabled the country to recycle more than 6000 leisure craft between 2005 and 2015.

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