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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 for the rules. 

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 is the definition of a small business. 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.

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.

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 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.

EPA and CARB:  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 go 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.


Canadian Marine Manufacturers Association

Environmental Issues:

Canada has enacted requirements similar to those in the USA.


Recreational Craft Directive 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.

Beyond the Rules:

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


Copyright 2010 All rights reserved. Revised 09/21/2016