An iffy market raises end-of-life issue
AMSTERDAM _ Sales of pre-owned sail and motor boats rose by 5% in the 2nd quarter of 2013 despite an enduring economic slump. The Dutch yachting lobby HISWA says yacht brokers are ‘’cautiously optimistic” about the rest of 2013. The iffy economy _ now in its 5th year _ is a thorn in the side of the Dutch yachting sector. And lately it has been bringing an old problem into new focus.
While EU-wide rules guarantee a safe disposal of old cars and batteries, there are no end-of-life laws for recreational watercraft. There are some 25,000 of those in the Netherlands, lying neglected in marinas, on canals and land. They form a glut that is widely seen as hampering boat sales in general. No owner of an old boat is keen to buy a new one. That boat glut also means, “we are heading for a major environmental problem,” says Gerwin Klok of the Netherlands’ Yacht Building Industry which represents 170 companies active in yacht building, maintenance and supply.
Owners of tens of thousands of polyester yachts built in the 1970s are today in no mood to pay for any more repairs or upkeep. Buyers cannot be found. Klok told the Dutch broadcaster NOS recently his trade group favors an end-of-life scheme for boats. It is willing to be a partner in that but insists the prime responsibility for scrapping end-of-life yachts lies with their owners.
Het Harpje in Bovenkarspel is the only yard in the Netherlands that disposes of old yachts. It removes reusable parts by hand, sells steel parts to scrap yards and cuts up polyester hulls. Leftovers of the latter go to Germany for shredding. The cost: about €3,000 per yacht.
The end-of-life issue is not unique to the Netherlands. Scandinavian nations are most advanced in dealing with it and the French Nautical industries Federation has been active in launching a network for recycling recreational craft.
In the Netherlands the issue is generating some encouraging business initiatives. Software developer RM Data has crafted a software that opens a virtual marketplace of used boat parts increasing their sales chances. There are now companies that focus on refurbishing old yachts that are not quite in the final cycle of their lives. This is not a complete answer to the end-of-life issue. That will require a much more comprehensive, nation-wide approach.