Emma Barton, RYA Planning & Environmental Manager
As the nights draw in, thoughts will be turning to annual winter maintenance tasks and the chore of scrubbing down hulls and applying a new coat of antifoul for next season.
Antifouling paints are hazardous mixtures that prevent the build-up of marine organisms on vessel hulls.
They work largely by releasing biocides into the water, preventing organisms from attaching themselves to the bottom of boats.
Whilst this is good for keeping the hull clean, improving efficiency through the water and preventing the spread of invasive non-native species, it does mean that some of the toxic ingredients leach into the water.
Increased concentrations of copper can sometimes be found in the sediment around lift out points in estuaries and rivers and can find their way into the food chain causing a wide range of environmental problems and can also increase dredging costs.
Boat owners can play a vital role in preventing concentrated scrapings from entering the water by following best practice advice from The Green Blue.
A growing number of marinas, clubs and boatyards have installed washdown facilities which collect residues from your boat instead of letting it run back into the water. Some also recycle the wastewater for re-use, preventing pollution and saving water costs.
If you wash your hull off on a slipway, place a length of rope across the slope to catch larger paint particles. They can be swept up and put in the hazardous waste bin.
If you use scrubbing piles, only scrub off the fouling and not the residue paint – be careful not to let debris enter the water. When sanding, use a dustless vacuum sander to reduce toxic dust from the paint and antifouling coatings.
Most marinas, clubs and boatyards would prefer not to have their sites covered with blue patches and do not want loose material entering the water or nearby surface water drains.
Tarpaulins are an easy and inexpensive solution when sanding or scrubbing and to catch drips and spills when painting.
It is also important to note that antifouling tins as well as topside paints, varnishes and solvents must be disposed of as hazardous waste in the hazardous waste bins, as do used brushes, rollers and trays.
Take advice from your chandlery on the correct type of antifoul for your location and use, preferably with the lowest levels of biocides and copper suitable for your needs. Take a look at different technologies, copper free antifouling or alternative hull paints such as vinyl, silicone or Teflon or even consider an ultrasonic system.
And do not forget, always follow the paint manufacturer recommendations and wear the recommended Personal Protective Equipment to minimise skin contact and avoid breathing dust
At the start of 2017, the RYA, the British Coatings Federation and British Marine teamed up to launch the DIY Safe Antifouling Initiative 2017. The DIY Safe Antifouling Initiative includes a range of freely available resources for reference and display, including a poster, video, trifold leaflet and guidance document. To find out more, or to download any of these tools, visit www.safeantifouling.com
See www.thegreenblue.org.uk for the latest Green Guides.