Here’s how boat scrapping works in Italy

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When deciding to scrap an obsolete fiberglass boat in Italy, what is the process to go through? How does disassembly and disposal take place? How much does it cost? We reveal, with the help of the expert, everything you need to know about end-of-life vessels (opening image taken from YouTube)

Accompanied by a growing focus on “eco” issues (thankfully!), the vexata quaestio of the scrapping of fiberglass boats and their disposal is keenly felt. What does the law say about the “end of life” of vessels in Italy? What procedures will a boat owner who decides to scrap his boat have to go through? How much does the operation cost? How does the hull disassembly process work? To answer these questions, we enlisted the help of Giovanni Fiore, technical manager of G.F. Service srl of Bacoli (Naples), one of the (few) Italian companies that deals, with state-of-the-art technologies, with the demolition and disposal of all kinds of boats, from dinghies to superyachts.

Giovanni Fiore is the technical manager of G.F. Service srl (www.gfservicesrl.com), one of the few companies in Italy that deals with, among other things, the dismantling and disassembly of obsolete boats, molds, accessories.

THE FIRST “BUREAUCRATIC” STAGE
Let us put ourselves in the shoes of an owner of a medium-sized boat (10-12 meters) that is no longer usable and therefore needs to be scrapped. “The laws governing the disposal of boats in Italy are smoky, but in reality the process that a boat owner has to take to scrap a hull is not that tortuous,” Fiore began.

“You will first need to contact the harbormaster’s office where the vessel was registered (can all this be done online once the electronic registry is active? Let’s hope so, ed.) to apply for permission to scrap the boat and the subsequent application to remove it from the registry. If you plan to reuse the inboard on another unit, or resell it, you will also need to apply to the harbormaster for clearance to land the engine. If, on the other hand, you want to dispose of the thruster as well, you will have to specify in the permit application that the engine and mechanical parts will be scrapped and taken over by the company, indicated by the shipowner, that will handle the scrapping.”

The cost of this ‘investigation’ varies as it is a function of a provincial disposal fee (to which must be added revenue stamps and a certificate stating that no maritime personnel are on board the unit). If the company that will demolish the hull is serious, it will perform an inspection to check the condition of the boat, ask you for the documents, the appraisal report, and draw up a detailed estimate.

THE BALL IS IN THE COMPANY’S COURT
Once the harbormaster has provided all the necessary bureaucratic directives., the ball passes to the company that will be in charge of transporting the boat to the demolition site: “It is up to the wrecker to inform the Coast Guard of the exact day the work begins,” Fiore continues, “which corresponds with the ‘cutting of the bow’ of the boat. On that day, an officer representing the Coast Guard must necessarily be present to certify that everything is in order. Obviously, the company may also be liable to audits and inspections during the work.”

Work can begin. Good, but what do they consist of and how long do they last? “A demolition plan and a preliminary operating plan (which contains, in a nutshell, the ‘who does what’ and the certifications of the personnel involved, all the safety measures that are applied, and all the risk assessment) is prepared. In addition, the Notice of Commencement of Activities is sent to INPS and INAIL.”

HOW A BOAT IS SCRAPPED
Let’s move on to the operational phase: “We start by setting up the construction site: the area that will be dedicated to the demolition of the boat is circumscribed with construction nets, access is restricted to personnel only, and all fire-fighting measures are prepared for the presence of mechanical equipment. There must then be a chemical toilet for skilled technical workers: we also install a mobile decontamination unit at the site for cleaning employees). The tracks of the wrecking excavator should be wrapped with a rubberized tape to protect any pavement. A polyethylene sheeting should be placed underneath the reservoir on which the boat is placed to prevent soil contamination, whether concrete or soil. If demolition of the inboard is planned, an absorbent layer should be spread under the engine compartment to prevent the dispersion of harmful oils.”

The next step is the actual disassembly: “In part it is done manually with skilled operators, the larger fiberglass portions are destroyed with the help of the excavator with demolition grapple. At the same time, ‘sorting’ takes place, the division of the various materials: plexiglass of the windows, on-board steels, electrical parts, pipes, woods, hides, cushions.” This is followed by loading with the help of the “octopus” loader, and subsequent transport to the appropriate authorized disposal facilities for materials and the dismantling of the yard. “The duration of the work may lengthen if the owner wants to salvage pieces of the boat (mast, furniture, timbers, propellers, equipment, etc.), but for a total demolition of a 10-12 meter boat it will take at least 2-3 days of yard time.”

HOW MUCH DOES THE WHOLE THING COST?
And a little more than 3,000 euros when you consider that the average construction site costs 1,000 to 1,200 euros per day. It is not little, but if the work is done properly, following the above process, you will understand that the price is justified: we will then see how the possibility of recovering some ‘greenbacks’ exists. And now we come to the thorny (both environmentally and economically) disposal of fiberglass: “In other countries they are getting busy, but in Italy there is still no efficient system for recycling fiberglass, which will end up in landfills. This makes the costs to the shipowner quite high: this year (due to ecological emergency) we are talking about 450 euros per ton.”

The only fiberglass hull treatment process currently available is non-oxidative thermal demolition (so-called pyrolysis), by which a mixture of gas and a solid residue (i.e., fibers) is obtained.This system requires large amounts of heat energy to reach the necessary temperatures (400 to 800 degrees). Take a classic Grand Soleil 39 from Jezequel (let’s hope you never have to scrap it), 8.3 tons displacement. With the woods and metals removed, will there be at least 4-5 tons of vtr left to dispose of? Be prepared to shell out at least 1,800 plus transportation costs. Doing the math, you’re unlikely to go for less than 5-7,000 euros-that’s why you hear all kinds of things on the docks relative to boats being taken offshore and sunk to avoid scrapping fees (madness!). And why our hinterlands are chock-full of fiberglass wrecks left to die in the shallows.

ON-BOARD METALS REDUCE THE COST
But beware: demolition done in full compliance is the most logical and environmentally responsible choice and as we anticipated there is the possibility of reducing costs: by selling (you will have to bear the burden of transporting the materials of course) separately the engine, sails, masting, instruments, and everything else that is marketable. And onboard metals are an important resource, Fiore explains. “Metal return is the most cost-effective solution for shipowners. Depending on the market price of metal at that particular time, between 1,500 and 2,000 euros can be made from an average-sized boat.”

WHERE DO THE MOLDS END UP?
Final curiosity. A reader asked us for enlightenment on where fiberglass molds from boats that have gone out of production end up. “When a shipyard decides to dispose of a mold, the operation is simpler: costing is straightforward because the molds’ data sheets show the exact quantities of GRP and metals present. The scrapping operation should be communicated in this case to the Internal Revenue Service, which will send an officer of the Guardia di Finanza on its behalf on the day the work begins.”

Eugene Ruocco

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