Tide Lines

Environment guidance for boat users

  • Dealing with wastes
  • Garbage
  • Oil
  • Sewage
  • Toxic Materials
  • Shore side Waste Management
  • Protecting wildlife habitats and species

These notes are for all boat users, and we hope they will help you to minimise the impact of your boat on the sea, the coastline and marine wildlife.

Government and coastal authorities expect boat users to regulate their own activities, without being policed.  Please help to keep it that way by following these guidelines. 

Dealing with wastes


Garbage means all food, domestic and operational wastes produced on board (except sewage) e.g.

  • Packaging (plastics, glass, metal, paper, cardboard)
  • Rope, line and netting
  • Fabrics, such as cleaning rags
  • Waste foodstuffs
Basic principles
  • Put NO garbage in the sea
  • Retain garbage on board and dispose of ashore

The UK has strict rules on dumping garbage at sea, with substantial penalties for offenders.

Good practice suggestions
  • Plan provisioning: remove excess packaging before you stow.  Where possible repackage into the boat’s permanent containers
  • Plan for managing wastes on board. Arrange for sufficient storage.  Keep an adequate supply of strong bags.  If necessary, install gadgets such as can crushers to reduce volume.  Rinse used packaging to prevent garbage becoming smelly
  • Separate wastes as far as practicable – particularly if your regular port or marina has recycling facilities
  • Inform/train/persuade your crew to follow a good garbage management routine
Food wastes
  • Do not dump any poorly degrading skins or peelings into the sea
  • Do not dump other food wastes within three miles of shore (12 miles if in the North Sea or English Channel)
  • Avoid discharge of all except “washing up” water when in marinas, on moorings or at popular anchorages
  • To prevent any chance of spread of disease to livestock, securely isolate in sealed packaging any animal or poultry product waste landed from a place outside of Great Britain or dispose of such waste to a dedicated bin, if available

Oils and oily wastes

Marine oil pollution is aimed mainly at oil tankers and commercial shipping, but leisure craft are not exempt from rules forbidding discharge of oil or oily wastes. Substantial penalties apply.

Basic principle
  • Prevent any discharge of oil, fuel or similar harmful substance into the sea
Good practice suggestions
  • Maintain fuel lines, connections and seals in good condition
  • Separate the engine and main bilges to minimise the risk of contamination bilge water with engine oil
  • Unless your boat is in peril do not pump into the sea from the bilge or machinery spaces any water contaminated with oil, fuel or materials toxic to the marine life (such as solvents or degreasing chemicals)
  • Prevent escape of oil in bilge water by installing an in-line filter
  • Se absorbent pads to soak up leakages and spillages.  Retain these on board for disposal ashore into proper reception facilities
  • Take ashore in proper containers any used sump oil and waste fuel, then dispose of into proper reception facilities
  • As far as possible, use biodegradable oils and unleaded fuel
  • When choosing an outboard motor, bear in mind the lower emissions from a 4-stroke engine
  • Avoid any spillage into the sea when refuelling outboard or inboard tanks
  • Keep the engine in efficient condition to minimise exhaust pollution


This guidance aims to balance

  • The long established practise of using direct-discharge sea toilets with
  • The increasing expectation that users of boats with living accommodation will fit and use sewage holding tanks
Basic principle
  • Do not discharge a sea toilet where doing so would affect water quality or harm the amenity value of local waters
Good practice suggestions
  • Use shore side facilities wherever possible – tell the harbour authority or marina operator if these are inadequate
  • Do not discharge a sea toilet into non-tidal, or weakly tidal waters in an area where local sewage is adequately treated before sea dispersal
  • Do not discharge into crowded anchorages, near amenity beaches or close to commercial shell fish beds
  • If your regularly use your boat in such inshore areas, fit a holding tank, and only pump out the tank into a proper harbour facility, or into the sea while underway at least three miles off shore
  • Do not empty a chemical toilet into the sea

Toxic wastes

These include:

  • Antifouling paints, scrapings and wash-off (particularly old TBT-based “Tributylin” paint residue
  • Old batteries (containing acid, lead or nickel/cadmium/zinc compounds)
  • Concentrated cleaning chemicals and solvents
Basic principles
  • Keep toxic or damaging chemicals out of the marine environment
  • Do not use TBT based antifouling paint from any source
Good practice suggestions
  • Choose an antifouling which is effective in local conditions as least possible toxicity
  • When cleaning off old antifouling, prevent dust or scrapings leaching into the sea or being dispersed in the wind.  Collect and dispose as toxic solid waste
  • Encourage your marina/boatyard/yacht club to install a “scrub off” facility which collects residues
  • Minimise use of detergent based cleaners. Consider use (or joint use with others) a plain water power sprayer
  • Dispose of old batteries and similar items to a dedicated reception facility

Shore side waste management

All those who maintain landing places from the sea (harbour and local authorities, marina operators and some coastal clubs) have statutory waste management responsibilities which include:

  • Consulting users about their waste disposal needs
  • Preparing waste management plans for all ship-borne wastes

Users can help by:

  • Telling authorities and operators if waste facilities are inadequate
  • Responding to consultations
  • Using the facilities when provided

Habitats and species protection

The coastline of Britain and Europe is rich in wildlife.  Large parts of the coast have been given statutory designation to protect their nature conservation importance.  Boat users enjoy free public right of navigation, but this comes with obligations: Not only towards other users, but to minimise the effects of recreational boating on natural habitats and species.

Good practice suggestions
  • Look for information
  • Use whatever sources are available to find out the nature conservation interest of the area you are visiting
  • Boat users can help conservation by encouraging publishers of pilot books, almanacs and specialist sources to improve currently sparse information

Check for:

  • Statutory management schemes for European Marine Sites (see FURTHER INFORMATION: Where to get it)
  • Statutory rules, such as byelaws – most likely to be found where there are declared nature reserves
  • Voluntary arrangements – for example those made under estuary management plans
  • Avoid damage and disturbance
  • When afloat, particularly close inshore n small craft, keep a sensible distance from bird roost and nesting sites, and make as little noise and wash as possible
  • When going ashore, use recognised landing places.  If visiting remote places, take care to avoid physical damage to wildlife habitats (such as bird nests on shingle) and disturbance to vulnerable species (such as overwintering birds and breeding seals)
  • Follow guidelines for minimising disturbance to whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans)
  • Avoid anchoring or taking the ground in areas where there are important and vulnerable seabed species (such as soft corals or seagrass)

Further Information

You can download this article as a .pdf file here.

More detailed on:

  • UK marine pollution law and practice
  • Fitting and using a holding tank
  • Management schemes for European Marine sites

Is available to RYA personal members, see RYA Details below

Another invaluable site is the Green Blue website https://thegreenblue.org.uk/ 


Coastal and marine sites designated for nature conservation
  • English Nature (Tel: 01733 45500
  • Countryside Council for Wales (Tel: 01248 385500)
  • Scottish Natural Heritage (Tel: 0131 447 4784)
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (Tel: 01767 680 551)
  • Minimising disturbances to whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks DETR (Tel: 0117 987 8694)
  • Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (Tel: 01225 334 511) (Web: Web )
  • WWF (Hotline: 0845 121 0500) (Web )
Marine Industries products
  • British Marine Industries Federation (Tel: 01784 473377)

Royal Yachting Association
RYA House
Ensign Way
SO31 4YA

Tel: 0844 556 9555
Fax: 0844 556 9516
Web: www.rya.org.uk
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Get in touch

Office hours

Mo - Fr 9.30 - 16.30
Sa 10.00 - 14.00

Out of office contact

Mobile 0034 628 478 400


Edifico Antiguo Varadero
Bloque D No 15 - 2nd Planta
35571 Puerto Calero Marina
Lanzarote - Canary Islands


Email stephanie@endeavour-sailing.co.uk
Phone 0034 928 849 670
Mobile 0034 628 478 400

Request a call back Send us your phone number and we'll call you!
The Name is required
The Phone is required
Thank you. We have got your request. We will contact you as soon as possible.

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.