Sustainable Navigation

10 Tips for More Sustainable Navigation – Part 2

Can We Reduce Our Environmental Impact While Boating?

The answer to this question is yes!

There are several measures that can help for more sustainable navigation. We’ve gathered some useful tips for greener boating: the first 5 are found in this article, while the remaining… well, you’ll just have to keep reading.

Let’s pick up where we left off: our tip number 6.

6. Mind the Toxicity of Antifouling Paints for Hulls

Antifouling paints applied to the submerged areas of boats may contain heavy metals or substances toxic to the environment, given their purpose.

However, depending on the type of boat and its usage, you can use paints that reduce the risk of heavy metal dispersion into the water. Certainly, in some navigational areas, it’s necessary to use paints with copper oxide to prevent algae and fouling, but in many cases, especially in freshwater basins, antifouling paints with less toxic elements are more than sufficient (for example, film paints with Teflon).

Additionally, be mindful when cleaning the hull to use non-abrasive techniques, especially if your boat has self-polishing or soft paints, which detach more easily.

If you have a small boat, the best advice is to keep it out of the water when not in use: in this case, it’s very unlikely that you’ll need antifouling paints.

7. Proper Disposal of Trash and Hazardous Waste

For sustainable, low-impact navigation, it’s crucial to refrain from disposing of waste into the water but rather keep it on board and then dispose of it correctly on land.

Particular attention should be paid to the disposal of hazardous waste. Used paints and brushes, batteries, antifreeze, cleaning products, oil, oil filters, old fuel, and other hazardous waste should be taken to the appropriate local facilities, not thrown in the trash bin in the harbor parking lot.

If you’re unsure where to take them, ask the harbor staff or inquire with the waste management authority in your area.

Additionally, remember that if you need to cover the boat during work, shrink wrap is made of recyclable material: most recycling centers and many larger marinas have a dedicated place for drop-off.

8. Sustainable Navigation = Proper Wastewater Management

Improperly disposed wastewater from recreational boats is one of the main causes of pollution at sea. It’s essential that it be eliminated in the most appropriate way, in compliance with laws and regulations.

For recreational boats, the law requires that all vessels built from 2008 onwards and equipped with toilet facilities must have a blackwater tank or a wastewater treatment system.

Discharges of blackwater, gray water, or bilge water are strictly prohibited in harbors and the nearest coastal areas (usually within 3 miles). Untreated blackwater can be discharged offshore (usually beyond 15 miles), but it’s necessary to inquire about any specific restrictions due to basin characteristics on a zone-by-zone basis.

In any case, the fewer discharges into the water you make, the better it is for the environment. Nowadays, many ports are equipped for the proper disposal of boat wastewater and may have personnel for tank emptying with specialized pumps: seek their assistance for proper disposal.

9. Be kind to the seafloor

This can be a significant issue or not an issue at all, depending on where you take your boat. However, wherever there is marine life on the seafloor, boats, and especially anchors, can have a dramatic impact.

In some areas (such as coral reefs or Marine Protected Areas), anchoring is illegal due to the damage anchors can cause to marine plants and animals.

10. Prevent the Spread of Invasive Aquatic Species: Clean Your Boat Thoroughly

This is a typical concern for those navigating in inland waters or using trailerable units, but it can also be valid elsewhere. There are aquatic species (plants, mollusks, and even particular bacteria) that can “hitchhike” on your boat as a means of transportation to move between bodies of water because they become “trapped” inside or outside of it.

The introduction of new species into any environment is problematic and can cause imbalances in the local ecosystem. The best way to prevent this is to “clean, drain, and dry”:

  • Inspect your boat for algae and remove them immediately after hauling it out of the water;
  • Thoroughly wash the boat between trips;
  • Let it dry for a few days before taking it to a new area;
  • Make sure to empty the bilge, cockpit, gray water washing system, and anything else that may contain water (and potential “stowaway” species).

Don’t forget to check the engine as well: you’ll likely already rinse it for maintenance between uses, but at this point, it becomes doubly important to do so to avoid inadvertently transporting invasive species to other environments.


This was the last of our 10 tips for more sustainable navigation. If you missed the first 5, you can find them by clicking here.

Although, if you found them helpful, please share these articles. The more people who sail responsibly and sustainably, the better it is for everyone!