Green Boating Tips: Spill Proof Fueling

By Drew | Green Boating

Aug 20

The Long Beach Marinas are part of the national Clean Marinas program, and all three have been certified as Clean Marinas since 2006. The Clean Marina program is a nationwide partnership between public, private, and municipally owned marinas to promote environmentally safe “green boating”. Here are a few ways to have a safe and green boating experience while fueling up.

Spill-Proof Fueling

It’s unbelievably difficult to avoid spilling when filling your boat’s fuel tank. The most experienced boaters still routinely discover that at least a little has managed to make it into the ocean or onto the dock, ready to run into the water at the first rain or wave. Even a tiny fuel spill is enough to damage the animals and plants that make boating so much fun.

According to the National Academy of Sciences 85% of petroleum that enters North American waters each year is the result of human activity. And the cost to clean up a spill is a lot less than the cost to clean it up.

Before you begin to pump,here are a few green boating tips that can go a long way towards preventing a spill.

  • Check your fuel lines and tanks to make sure they’re in good shape. It’s easy to pump a lot of gas before you realize most of it has been leaking out of a crack in the line that you didn’t notice before.
  • Be sure to have the proper emergency supplies on hand just in case, such as absorbent bibs, or bilge pads, and a spill kit
  • Don’t overfill. If it’s not your vessel, find out how many gallons the fuel tank holds before you fill. Don’t guess!

Once you’ve begun it’s even more important to keep focused on the task at hand.

  • This should go without saying but let’s say it anyway. Make sure the engines (all of them) and electrical equipment onboard are turned off and be sure to extinguish any open flames. The same rules you would have at your car’s gas station apply at your boat’s gas station.
  • Use an absorbent bib around the fuel intake every time you fill-up Remember, every drop counts.
  • Fill your tank slowly, listening for the tell-tale sound of the tank reaching capacity.

When you’ve finished filling, wipe up any spills that may have gotten out despite your diligence and dispose of your used rags and absorbent bibs. Remember, these items qualify as “hazardous waste” and should be disposed of as such.

The U.S. Coast Guard recommends filling inboard tanks to 90% capacity. This allows for expansion due to heat. Also, boat fuel tanks aren’t like car fuel tanks. Car fuel tanks are pressurized, but boat fuel tanks are not, so the pump automatic shut-off doesn’t always work.

Even if you use portable fuel cans it’s important to be very careful, for they pose their own set of issues. Just transporting gas in a fuel can (aka jerrycan) will lead to major spills if you aren’t careful. Always fill your fuel cans on shore and on level ground where spills are far less likely to happen and are far easier to clean up if they do.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that over 70,000 gallons of fuel is spilled from portable fuel cans every year. New fuel cans sold in the U.S. must meet a set of regulations designed to prevent spills and reduce vapors being released. These new cans fill more slowly, but they are far safer for the environment.

Being a safe boater means ensuring the safety of not just your passengers and other boaters, but also the environment you’re a guest in. The world’s waterways are incredibly delicate. It’s important to take responsibility for every drop that we put into them.

Fuel sheen on the water.

Fuel sheen on the water.

If you accidentally spill any fuel, or notice any fuel in the water, immediately call the marina office. The marina will notify the lifeguards who will send out a rescue boat to assess the problem. If you notice a spill after hours, call the after hours line at (562) 570-3101. If  you have any bilge pads or booms, feel free to put them in the water in or around the sheen.