Harbour Preservation – How you can play your part
I’m sure we can all think of a favourite port or harbour in the world whether it’s the glamour and glitz of Monaco or a sheltered little spot on a remote island. The sad truth is that beauty of these marinas and harbours is under constant threat from water pollution through fuel spills that not only look ugly but can also be fatal to the aquatic life.
Oil and fuel can enter the water accidentally through a number of routes. It may be spilled during the act of refuelling, poor bilge maintenance, disposal of oil absorbent materials and emissions. Marinas and Harbours with poor water circulation create a particular threat to marine life where pollution can accumulate in confined areas. Floating petroleum reduces light and oxygen and stifles plants, animals and microbes.
Within the context of other sources of pollution to the environment, vessel owners are accountable for a very small percentage but being aware of our responsibilities, both social and legal, can only help to ensure the protection of our environment to be shared by all.By following the 5-point guidelines below you can play your part in avoiding some of the common mistakes that lead to pollution in our harbours, marinas and ports wherever they may be.
- Refuelling can be a risk, but with care there need be no problems! Slow down the pumping rate at the beginning and at the end of fuelling. Be aware of your tanks volume and fill tanks to around 90% capacity – fuel drawn from cold storage tanks will expand as it warms up. Some free space should also be left should the vessel tilt. It can also be practical to re-fuel just before leaving the port/marina – this will reduce spills due to thermal expansion since the fuel will be used before it has chance to warm up. Spills and drips can be eliminated with regular monitoring and maintenance of fuel hoses, connections and seals. If drips do occur use absorbent pads to mop up. Filling up portable tanks is better done on land rather than pontoons, where spills are not so likely and if they do occur are easier to clean up. In addition, attach a safety nozzle to portable fuel cans and use a funnel.
- Engine oil tends to accumulate in bilges. A well-tuned engine will limit the amount of oil that is released and regular attention to seals, gaskets or hoses will ensure there are no leaks. The use of oil absorbent pads, under the engine and an oil absorbent pillow in the bilge will help. If however oil does escape, do not treat oily water with detergents as they too pollute!
- Emissions from the engine as a result of the incomplete combustion of fuel and lube oil are ugly, and toxic. Emissions from engines are controlled by legal limits for hydrocarbons (HCs) as well as nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxides (CO) and particulate matter (PM). The particulate emissions produced by a diesel engine are a function of a number of parameters, mainly engine type, engine operating conditions, catalyst type and fuel composition. Sulphur content is one fuel property, which has the most influence on particulates released from the exhaust. Engine efficiency and a low sulphur product as recommended by the engine manufacturer are vital to minimise emissions.
- Commercial products are available to prevent spills and reduce emissions. For example, a fuel/air separator along the vent line will allow air, not fuel, to escape. A bilge water filter can be fitted and connected to the bilge pump to remove harmful substances. In addition, an oil absorbent sock in the bilge is good practice. Oil absorbents, materials that attract oil and repel water are valuable however, emulsifiers or detergents should NOT be used on oil spillages as they only add to the toxic trouble!
- The absorbent material itself must of course be disposed of environmentally. Some standard absorbent materials that are saturated with certain products may be air dried and reused, however those saturated with oil or diesel must be disposed of properly by either wringing out in appropriate recycle bins and reused or double bagged and disposed of.
It is an offence to deliberately or accidentally discharge pollutants into any watercourse or coastal waters. In the USA, the Clean Water Act and the Environment Protection Agency serve to police pollution. In Europe the Recreational Craft Directive sets legal standards.We can all take simple precautions to minimise accidental spills into the environment, and we can all act to maintain the delicate balance between marine organisms, birds, mammals and our environment, with a few simple observations we can all play our part
20th January 2009
This article originally appeared in Yachting Maters, issue 16
Photograph by Colin Squire at Yachting Matters www.yachtingmatters.com