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Environmental Issues

There are many environmental issues that affect the boat builder.

Among these are:

Hazardous chemicals used in boat building.

Styrene Emissions.

Collection of sawdust and other dust from the workshop.

Exhaust emissions from boat engines.

Evaporative Emissions from fuel systems.

Environmental safety of workers.  Use of dust masks, respirators, and environmental suits.

Beyond these are global issues such as energy usage and reducing your carbon footprint. Use of materials that have significant environmental impact such as exotic woods from the rain forests, and resins and plastics made from petroleum.

EPA Regulations for Recreational Boats

The  ABYC publication, USCG EPA Regulations for Recreational Boats, is available.  This technical resource provides a convenient reference for the laws and regulations which govern the design and construction of boats in consideration of fuel and exhaust emissions mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The excerpts of the government publication contain all the amendments that were available as of the date of publication, September, 2009, and include relevant sections from the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 40, parts 1045 and 1060.

United States

Environmental concerns have been around for boats for many, many years.  It all started with the Refuse Act of 1899 also known as the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 . This made it illegal to dump your trash, oil and other wastes over board in harbors and rivers. But the three laws that have the most affect on recreational boaters are the Clean Air Act of 1963 and it's subsequent extensions and expansions, and the Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 and the  Clean Water Act of 1972.

As a result, one of the requirements that must be met by boats 26 feet or longer, that have engines, is a pollution placard.

The other most obvious result is the requirement for the use of a certified marine sanitation device.  See Marine Sanitation Devices for the rules. 

Oil Discharge Placard

But what about the builder and his place of business?  The best web site I have seen that lists all the environmental regulations that apply to boat building is the  National Marine Manufacturers Association  website. Keep in mind that these rules may not apply to small businesses. But you should find out what rules do or don't apply and what the definition of a small business is. Each rule has it's own definition.

Here is a synopsis of issues that apply to boat builders.

MACT: Maximum Achievable Control Technology, establishes national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (HAP) for new and existing boat manufacturing facilities with resin and gel coat operations, carpet and fabric adhesive operations, or aluminum boat surface coating operations.  For this to apply to you, you must emit above a certain level of emissions. EPA Emissions Standards

Hazardous Waste: There are both Federal and State regulations for disposal of hazardous wastes. At the Federal level small volume manufacturers are given some leeway to treat hazardous wastes on site. But it is best to consult your state Department of Environmental Protection and find out what the rules are. Many metropolitan areas have sites for disposal of hazardous wastes. But you should know what and how much you are allowed to store on site before you have to take it to the disposal site. Land Waste and Clean Up Topics.

OSHA Regulations: OSHA does not just regulate safety in the work place. They also have regulations about the types of environmental hazards you must protect your employees from, and what types of protective equipment that must be used.

NFPA:  National Fire Protection Association.  OSHA enforces NFPA standards in the work place.  The current standards are very out of date but NFPA is working with NMMA and OSHA to update them.

Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board: The EPA and CARB are both instituting regulations to control evaporative emissions from gasoline fuel systems and exhaust emissions on inboard and sterndrive powered boats. The EPA regulations went into effect in January 2009. The outcomes of these regulatory proposals are, new hose and fuel tanks that permeate less, or allow less evaporative emissions into the atmosphere, and catalytic converters on exhaust systems of inboard and sterndrive powered boats. Marine Spark Ignition Standards.


Canadian Marine Manufacturers Association 

Environmental Issues: 

 Canada has enacted requirements similar to those in the USA.


Recreational Craft Directive 

Recreational Boat Product Standards in the UK.
In the UK and EU there are environmental laws. Those that apply specifically to boats are in the RCD.  Each of the EU countries have environmental laws that apply to manufacturers. Many of these are contained in the ISO standards.

Recycling:  see the excellent article by  Eric Sponberg in Professional Boatbuilder on recycling: Recycling Dead Boats:  

Also see the EPA on Recycling:

The Every Day Guide to Recycling.

 Evaporative Emissions and Exhaust Emissions

The following is required in the USA after July 31, 2013, for all boats with new gasoline engines (inboard, outboard, PWCs) must comply with the following EPA regulations:

Marine Engine Exhaust Emissions:  Control of emissions of hydrocarbons (HC) , Oxides of Nitrogen (NO) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) This will require catalytic converters on some engines.   Auxiliary marine engines, such as generators do not have to comply. This is the engine manufacturers responsibility.

Marine Evaporative Emissions: This is vapor that escapes during fueling, from tanks, and through the walls of hoses. The EPA has set fuel vapor permeation limits for tanks and hoses.

Fuel Hose: Must be low permeation not to exceed 15 g/m2 per day.  Hose from the tank to the engine marked USCG A1-15, B1-15.   Outboard fuel hoses and primer bulbs.  The boat builder or dealer is responsible for compliance

Fuel Tanks:  Must be low permeation not to exceed 15 g/m2 per day.

Diurnal Control:  Diurnal means the difference in temperature between day and night.  This results in fuel expansion and contraction which causes venting.
Applies to both permanently installed and portable tanks.
Control Methods: vent system with a 1 PSI pressure relief valve or;
Carbon canister in the vent line.  The size of the carbon canister depends on the size of the boat.
Less than 26 ft. trailerable boats,  a canister of 0.40 grams/gal/day
26 ft. or longer, or wider than 8.5 ft. (non-trailerable) 0.16 grams/gal/day; Canister must be protected from direct contact with liquid fuel by  a vapor gap, (ullage - expansion space) in the fuel tank, or;
An external expansion tank

An EPA compliance label is required as shown below: either a separate label or combined with the capacity label.

EPA Certification Label Capacity Label with EPA certification

NMMA Document on EPA(download)
FAQs on Environmental and Regulatory Issues

EPA Regulations

EPA Manufacturer ID Codes

EPA Fees pay Electronically at 

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