What should happen to the growing number of graveyard yachts around our coastlines?
This is one of 20 sad cases of dinghies, tenders and small motorboats being auctioned by Chichester Harbour Conservancy. All are small craft that have been abandoned in the harbour and left to rot.
Except that they don’t rot. Like most fibre reinforced plastic boats they don’t gently decompose into the mud, they remain as litter on the foreshore, or landfill elsewhere after their useful life and worth is done.
At some point it becomes more economical to buy a new boat than spend time repairing an old one. This is a growing problem with larger boats as well, which have become cheaper to produce and quicker to depreciate.
What used to be rather romantically thought of as shipwrecks or derelicts are really just non-biodegradable litter in boatyards and along the coastlines of the world. It is, in effect, fly-tipping.
So what is to be done about what are known as ‘end of life’ hulls?
This is the subject of debate, and there is a suggestion that in future discarded hulls could be partially recycled, in much the same way as cars. Or that the cost of taking back abandoned hulls should be included in the cost of new yachts, creating a yacht scrapping fund.
The value of recycling is debatable, some say, because the fibres recovered are neither strong nor economically viable. Others argue that the best and cheapest thing to do would be to sink old hulls and create reefs.
But one thing is for sure: with the boom of relatively cheaply produced, lower value GRP boats multiplying worldwide, the problem of graveyard yachts is going to get more and more pressing.