Sewage wastes from recreational craft

Chichester Harbour sewage pump-out station

Useful technical and environmental guidance for waste management

A range of guidelines and codes of practice have been prepared by maritime industry, recreation associations, the Environment Agency and port and harbour authorities which provide guidance for minimising and avoiding sewage inputs from boats into marinas, harbours and coastal areas (RYA 1997; UK CEED & BMIF 1998, Carrick District Council 1997, EA 1996 (Appendix K)).

Port and harbours should encourage all boat users to use on-shore toilet facilities whenever possible. To encourage their use, onshore toilet and shower facilities should be clean, located close to where the boats are moored and if a charge is deemed to be necessary for the use of the facilities, it should be small. Whilst moored within marinas and harbours, boat owners may be discouraged or, where considered necessary to reduce adverse environmental impacts, prohibited from using of vessel toilets. Ports and harbours may also encourage the provision of public facilities by local authorities and marina operators.

The disposal of sewage from boats should be discouraged, or where considered necessary prohibited, where doing so adversely effects water quality or the amenity value of local waters. This could be considered in weakly tidal, sheltered and enclosed waters in areas where background water quality is good and local sewage is adequately treated before sea disposal. Also in crowded anchorage near environmentally sensitive areas and amenity beaches.

In order to avoid environmental harm, boat users need to be encouraged to use holding tanks where fitted and to dispose of sewage in areas as far as possible from shore in regions of strongest tidal streams or at onshore pump-out facilities whenever possible. A few harbours and marinas operating within marine SACs provide onshore facilities for pumping-out sewage wastes from recreational boats. The use of pump-out facilities would be encouraged by giving careful consideration to their location and accessibility and the publication of leaflets outlining the location of the facilities to all users. Consideration should also be given to the charges made for the use of pump-out facilities, to ensure that they do not act as disincentive to their use (see below).

Chichester Harbour sewage pump-out station

Chichester Harbour Conservancy have installed a sewage pump-out facility at their public jetty at Itchenor. In order to encourage maximum use of these facilities, they are provided free-of-charge.

This has been enabled, in part, by funding from the Environment Agency, who have contributed 50% of the total costs. Water quality is of particular concern in Chichester Harbour and it is classed as a sensitive area under EC Nitrates Directive. This approach might be considered in other marine SACs where water quality and pollution from sewage discharges are of high concern.

Wessex Water have published an initiative in which they have undertaken to provide free sewage connections to marinas installing pump-out facilities. The provision of adequate pump-out facilities in harbours also limits the amount of chemicals used in holding tanks and the portable toilets entering the marine environment. Harbour users should be discouraged from emptying chemical toilets into the sea and from overdosing toilet systems with chemicals and using them when it is not necessary.

The new boat building Directive requires that all but the smallest vessels are either equipped with holding tanks or have facilities for these to be retrofitted. However, only a small proportion of leisure craft are likely to have holding tanks within the next decade. Even those craft that do have holding tanks, will often not use them to pump waste ashore because of a number of possible reasons:

  • there are insufficient pump-out facilities,
  • there is a lack of inclination on the part of the owners to pay for pump out services when overboard discharge remains free of charge,
  • many craft with holding tanks are waiting for the International (ISO 228/11) or a European Standard for pump-out connections to be implemented in the UK before modifying their vessels, a process that may take several years, and
  • due to the pattern of boat usage, facilities are likely to be in very high demand as the weekend comes to an end and queuing for pump-out facilities will not be popular or practical.

This is supported by the case where pump-out facilities in one large marina on the south coast were only used ten times in one year (UK CEED 1993). The circle needs to be broken. Holding tanks will not become common until pump out arrangements improve, and facilities will not be provided until there is sufficient demand. All harbours and marinas in marine SACs should provide onshore facilities for pumping-out sewage wastes where consultation with users identifies a need and/or where there are real concerns over the environmental effects of the discharge of untreated sewage wastes into the marine SAC. The RYA is in the process of developing a technical guide to provide help and encouragement to boat owners of existing old boats to retro-fit holding tanks, which is no easy task because most spaces on board a small yacht are already in use.

Useful technical and environmental guidance for waste management

  • Garbage management plans, guidelines for the preparation of garbage management plans incorporating a model plan (ICS 1998).
  • Guidelines for the control and management of ships’ ballast water to minimise the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens (IMO 1998).
  • Guide to Boating and the Environment (BMIF 1997).
  • Manual on shore reception facilities (IMO 1995).
  • Navigate with Nature, Coastal Waters (UK CEED, BMIF, DETR, RSPB & Varity Perkins 1998).
  • Oil spill contingency plan guidelines for ports, harbours and oil handling facilities (MCA 1998).
  • Pollution Prevention Guidance Note 14: Marinas and craft (PPG 14) (Environment Agency 1996).
  • Port Waste Management Planning – How to do it (DETR 1998).
  • Port Waste Management Planning – A guide for marina operators and coastal clubs (BMIF & RYA 1998).
  • Practical Guidelines for Ports on Environmental Issues. Water Pollution: a concern for Port Authorities (International Association of Ports and Harbours 1991).
  • Stemming the tide - Controlling introductions of non-indigenous species by ships' ballast water (National Academy Press 1996).
  • Tide Lines- Environmental Guidance for Boat Users (RYA 1997).
  • The Prevention of pollution by garbage from ships (MSA 1995).

Next section