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"What happens to old boats?" - The mission of Boatbreakers

“What happens to old boats?” It’s a question many boat owners don’t even consider until the day they need to call us at Boatbreakers.

We dispose of end of life boats from all over the UK. Sometimes they have been left to rot in a boat yard or on a mooring. Others are stuck in the driveway or garden just in the way. Some are new boats that have been involved in collisions and have then been written off by a surveyor. 

In 2006 my boss Steve Frankland was a marine surveyor. He would regularly survey yachts or motorboats that needed thousands of pounds worth of work. Often this repair bill would be more than the owner was trying to sell the boat for. This would then mean the deal was dead in the water and the seller was stuck with a problem boat. Steve then thought, what happens to these old boats? 
After some research he realised that there was no one out there in the UK offering a service of boat disposal. So he decided to start it himself. 
Fast forward 14 years and not much in the boat disposal game has changed. Boatbreakers remains the only dedicated boat disposal company in the country. 
The business plan is a simple one. Boat owners from across the country send us their boat’s details to find out how much it will cost for us to scrap their boat. Because the vast majority of boats we deal with are made of Fibre Reinforced Plastics or FRP there has to be a cost to dispose of the waste material. 
Boatbreakers dispose of boats for owner, insurance companies, marinas, boat yards, councils, and harbour boards. 
At present the only solution on offer for waste FRP is sadly landfill. But this is something we are working with researchers to try and change. 
Boat for scrap
FRP, commonly known as fibreglass, from boats is currently very difficult to recycle. One of the reasons for this is there is no standard reuse for the material and it is difficult to separate from the other elements in a boat’s hull. Often the boat is packed out with other materials like foam, balsa or other wood. Separating these materials out is difficult to do and as there is no demand for the recycled waste, it’s a pointless exercise. 
Old boats and what to do with them is finally in the spotlight. The issue is discussed at most international boat shows outside of the UK. Most notably at METSTRADE 2019 in Amsterdam. 
Recently even the UN commissioned a study by AQASS Ltd to investigate how countries across the world were dealing with the problem. I have since met with the author Simon Bray and he shares my concerns that the UK is lagging behind all the other developed nations. But there’s no great surprise there! 
For anyone interested in the wider issues and different hurdles we have to overcome at Boatbreakers I would recommend browsing our Breaking Boats Blog on our website. It covers what we do, boats we scrap and the recycling developments in the industry. 

The biggest hurdle is trying to get people to pay to dispose of their boat. It is too easy for some unscrupulous types to just abandon their vessel. The burden then falls to whoever‘s land the boat is left on. 

At Boatbreakers we are trying to grow a boat breaking network across the UK, Ireland and Europe. With more Boatbreakers sites around the country it will cut down costly boat transport costs. These costs make up a large chunk of any disposal bill, as we have to get the boats back to us in Portsmouth.

The other major cost involved in scrapping a boat is paying to dispose of the waste. If a solution or a reuse could be found for the old FRP hull material we could dramatically reduce the bill once more. 

Dutch barge for recycling

Our business would then become a simple logistics exercise of arranging for boats to be delivered to the closest scrapyard and disposed of. Most importantly the cost would be in the hundreds not the thousands. Which would hopefully mean more people would take the honest approach. Especially if it means they escape the bill mooring fee bills. 

Whether you have bought your boat brand-new or secondhand on a site like this. The chances are you probably won’t be that boat’s only owner. However, if you are the boat’s last owner, the bill falls to you to pay for her disposal. We don’t think this is right as every owner who has owned that boat should have some responsibility. 

A simple solution to this would be to charge a percentage on all newbuilds and then on every insurance policy for that boat. This would then mean that those costs could be put into a pot and used when the time comes for the boat to be destroyed. There are some issues with this as who would control the money and what if foreign boats end up dumped in the UK. The chances are chasing EU to clean up boats on our shores would be tricky. 

At Boatbreakers we don’t claim to be the only people breaking boats. Across Europe there are other companies some with funding from their governments who will collect and dispose of boats. Some companies in the UK may also offer to break up a boat but they often don’t recycle everything they can. 

We also run a sister site called boatscrapyard.com which is linked to our Boat Scrapyard UK group on Facebook. During the coronavirus lockdown we have built this group so boat owners can request to buy and sell recycled boat bits. 

Boatbreakers is hopefully the cheapest place to buy boat bits. Not only do we get used chandlery items but also parts of boats the other people just can’t find. We want to make sure we minimise what ends up being thrown away as we all know how pricey anything is with the word marine in it.

If you are sailing on a shoestring or you love a boat jumble I recommend getting in contact with us. We probably have just what you’re looking for at half the price. 


Boat Disposal Center
Published on 2020-05-18