Commercial marinas face many risks in their daily operations. These facilities are responsible for delivering a range of services and for protecting millions of dollars in boating investments from harm. Marina risk management is built on a foundation of commercial marine insurance. Additional strategies are needed, particularly when it comes to pollution in and around waterways. In this guide, we will explore critical marina pollution management tips that can help owners protect fragile coastal ecosystems while providing superior service and quality for their boating clients.

Common Commercial Marina Pollution Risks

Before delving into marina management practices, it can be valuable to learn about the most common pollution risk exposures these boating facilities experience in their operations. While these risks may be covered under comprehensive commercial marine insurance policies, identifying and mitigating pollutants helps to eliminate the expenses and headaches associated with a spill.

Common marina pollution risks include:

  • Discharges of fuel or oil from fueling systems
  • Leaks from fuel storage/holding tanks
  • Sewage discharges from vessels or onshore sanitary systems
  • Pollutants discharged from boats through bilge pumping or equipment leaks
  • Storm water runoff from paved areas and building roofs
  • Erosion from natural wind and wave activity
  • Disturbances of subsurface sediments during marina construction or dock maintenance

The latter three on this common pollution risks list are known as “nonpoint” pollution sources. Nonpoint pollution is perhaps more devastating, as there is not a single source of pollutants, making these incidents more difficult to detect and to manage. Pollution entering waterways can have long-term impacts. Cleanup of pollution spills can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, and delicate coastal ecosystems and aquatic life may be damaged from spills and their cleanup. Pollution spills may also incur steep regulatory penalties. Management practices centered on preventing all forms of pollution in waterways are critical.

Managing Pollution Risks in Commercial Marinas

While commercial marine insurance is designed to offer a broad range of protections for marina owners, these policies must be supplemented by pollution management practices. To adequately manage the risks associated with pollution, the process begins with initial siting and construction of marina facilities. Developers must balance many factors in the design of marinas, including wave breaks, jetties, and basins that both protect moored vessels as well as improve flushing of waterways. Marinas located near creek mouths or open coastlines are preferred.

During construction and during daily operations, commercial marinas must take steps to avoid disturbing coastal vegetation and wildlife. Vegetation along shorelines helps to control erosion, which may discharge sediments into waterways and choke out aquatic life. Here, strict speed limits and erosion mitigation systems like fencing or rocks can reduce the impact to ecosystems by managing the effects of vessels entering or exiting marina properties.

Single-point pollution sources, such as fueling and lubrication systems, must be inspected regularly to ensure proper operation. Routine checks can pinpoint leaks or malfunctions before they can cause a large-scale pollution discharge. Maintenance services at marinas are also a source of pollutants; marina managers must prevent fuel and oil from running off into waterways by installing oil separators in drains. Marinas with onsite sanitary facilities or sewage pumpout stations must also ensure that these systems are not leaking or otherwise discharging pollutants.

Managing runoff from paved or vegetated areas can reduce the amount of nonpoint pollution being discharged. Excessive use of fertilizers on lawns or landscaped areas must be avoided; cleanup of oil and fuel spills on paved surfaces should happen before rain or waves can wash those pollutants into the water. Catch basins or ponds that redirect stormwater can be a valuable addition to the nonpoint pollution management equation; these should be included in marina design specifications where applicable.

Employee training on pollution safety and cleanup is a great management practice that supplements the protections of commercial marine insurance. When a pollution spill occurs, employees with this training know what to do in terms of stopping further discharges and to clean up any spills before they can harm waterways. Training should include information about which agencies to notify in cases of pollution discharges; the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and state or municipal authorities should be advised if a spill occurs.

Finally, marina clients and guests must be provided with training and information on preventing pollution. Encouraging boat owners to maintain their vessels and to curtail discharges from sewage holding tanks or bilges can help protect the environment, making the marina visiting experience more pleasant while keeping coastal waters clean.

About Merrimac Marine Insurance

At Merrimac Marine, we are dedicated to providing insurance for the marine industry to protect your clients’ business and assets. For more information about our products and programs, contact our specialists today at (800) 681-1998.