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Tips for preventing water pollution from your boat

​​​Pollution risks from boats

There's lots of substances from boats that can pollute​ sea water, including:

  • oil
  • fuel
  • litter
  • anti-foul
  • contaminated bilge waters

The advice below can help you to minimise your risk of polluting the water.

Oil and fuel

Diesel or oil is damaging to marine life. Make sure it's not released into the water:

  • don't spill fuel or overfill your tank when refuelling 
  • make sure portable tanks are secure and fill them up away from the water
  • carefully dispose of waste oils and used filters using the disposal facilities provided
  • if your bilge water is contaminated with oil or fuel, transfer it to secure containers and dispose of it safely. Contaminated water should never be pumped into the sea
  • keep clean absorbent material on board to mop up spills and clean oil from bilge water
  • have a drip tray under the engine and gearbox to prevent oil entering into the bilge and empty it regularly
  • don't use too much emulsifier and detergent, they can cause pollution themselves

Sewage disposal

Your boat should be fitted with an adequate holding tank for sewage and waste water. If you really must discharge liquid waste at sea, you must do it offshore away from swimmers and water-sports.

If you have containment facilities for sewage and waste water you should pump your waste into approved sanitary stations. Elizabeth Marina has facilities.

Always use the minimum amount of toilet chemicals.


You must keep your litter secure when at sea and dispose of it appropriately on land. 

Cleaning, painting and anti-fouling

Scraping anti-foul products from your boat can release harmful substances into the water.

Soaps and detergents can produce ‘grey water’ which promotes algal growth. This can lead to a lack of oxygen in the water and suffocate marine life:

  • don't get anti-fouling paint in the water when you're removing it from your boat
  • get advice on the type of paint you use and always apply it according to instructions
  • when you're cleaning your boat, use minimal abrasion, especially on soft anti-foul
  • reduce the water pressure if the runoff is coloured
  • don't use too much detergent, degreaser or other chemical cleaners
  • use water based paints 
  • always keep the lids on paint and varnish pots​
  • make sure tins, brushes and debris are cleaned away properly when you're finished
  • clean up spillages and never wash it into the water
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