Yacht Disposal: A Legal Overview

Yachts are not only expensive to buy and maintain, but also to dispose of when they are no longer wanted or usable. Depending on the size, condition and location of the yacht, there may be different legal requirements and options for yacht disposal. I provide a brief overview of some of the main legal aspects of yacht disposal in different regions of the world.

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In Europe, there is no specific legislation on yacht disposal, but there are general rules and principles that apply to waste management and environmental protection. The European Commission has issued a report on end-of-life boats in 20171, which provides guidance and recommendations for the management of recreational craft at the end of their life cycle. The report suggests that yacht owners should be responsible for the proper disposal of their boats, and that they should use authorized waste facilities or recycling centers. The report also proposes a voluntary certification scheme for end-of-life boats, which would transfer the ownership and liability of the boat to a certified operator, who would then ensure its safe and environmentally sound disposal.

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The report also identifies some best practices and initiatives in different European countries, such as France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, where there are national or regional programs for yacht disposal. For example, in France, there is a network of authorized operators called APER2, who collect and dismantle end-of-life boats for a fee. In Italy, there is a project called Life Eco-Pulimar3, which aims to develop an integrated system for the recovery and recycling of abandoned boats in the Mediterranean Sea. In Spain, there is a program called SIGREN, which offers incentives for yacht owners to deliver their boats to authorized facilities. In the Netherlands, there is a company called Jacht Recycling BV, which claims to be the first in Europe to offer a certificate that transfers the ownership and liability of end-of-life boats to them, and guarantees their proper disposal.

United States

In the United States, there is no federal legislation on yacht disposal, but there are state and local laws and regulations that may apply. According to the BoatUS Foundation, it is illegal to toss any garbage from a boat while in lakes, rivers, bays, sounds, and offshore in the ocean less than 3 miles. This includes food, plastic, metal, glass and other materials that may pollute the water or harm wildlife. Violations may result in civil penalties up to $25,000, a fine of up to $50,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to 5 years. The foundation also advises boat owners to avoid sinking or abandoning their boats, as this may cause environmental damage and navigation hazards. Instead, they should try to sell, donate or recycle their boats through reputable organizations or businesses.

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Some states have specific programs or resources for yacht disposal. For example, in Florida, there is a program called Florida Boating Improvement Program, which provides grants for local governments to remove derelict vessels from public waters. In California, there is a program called Vessel Turn-In Program, which allows boat owners to voluntarily surrender their unwanted vessels to participating local agencies for free or low-cost disposal. In Maryland, there is a website called Clean Marina, which provides information and links for boat owners who want to dispose of their boats in an environmentally friendly way.

Other Regions

In other regions of the world, there may be different legal frameworks and practices for yacht disposal. For example, in Australia, there is a national plan called National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety, which regulates the safety standards and requirements for commercial vessels operating in Australian waters. Under this plan, commercial vessel owners are required to notify the relevant authorities when they intend to dispose of their vessels, and to ensure that they do so in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. In New Zealand, there is a voluntary scheme called Clean Boating Programme, which promotes good environmental practices among recreational boaters. Under this scheme, boat owners are encouraged to dispose of their boats responsibly by using approved facilities or recycling options.

Depending on the region and situation, yacht owners may face different options and obligations for disposing of their boats.

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