Published: 17.10.23

Abandoned boat wrecks pose a significant environmental threat

Abandoned boat wrecks pose a significant environmental threat"Belgen" klargjøres for sleping til Hanøytangen
Abandoned boat wrecks for which no one takes responsibility constitute a major issue both in Bergen and the surrounding municipalities. These wrecks are a menace to the environment, and their removal costs the public a hefty sum.

The old fishing vessel Belgen is being prepared for towing to Hanøytangen, where it will be scrapped. The boat wreck has been lying at Nordre Nøstekai for a year and a half, causing headaches for both Bergen Port and the surrounding areas.

Many boat owners do not take responsibility

-We have taken responsibility for 15 abandoned vessels in the inner harbor of Bergen so far this year. Beyond this, it is also a major challenge generally in Bergen Municipality and the surrounding municipalities of Alver, Askøy, Austrheim, Bjørnafjorden, Fedje, and Øygarden, where Bergen Port has a management responsibility under the Ports and Waterways Act, says Hanne Gunnarskog, responsible for water management at Bergen Port.

Boat owners are responsible for handling their vessels, regardless of their condition. Unfortunately, many boat owners do not take responsibility and leave their vessels at random docks. Gradually, this pollutes the surroundings and the environment. Authorities can instruct the owner to remove the vessel, but if the owner does not comply with the instructions, the authorities must follow up on behalf of the owner.

The establishment of a mandatory small craft register is necessary

Currently, the registration of vessels under 15 meters is a voluntary arrangement. As a result, several thousand vessels nationwide are not registered, and locating the owner is challenging and time-consuming. A mandatory small-craft register has been a topic of discussion for several years but has not yet been implemented. However, in February 2023, the Norwegian Maritime Directorate was tasked by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries to assess whether a mandatory small-craft register should be established. The Ministry will now evaluate the matter more closely before making a final decision.

According to the Norwegian Maritime Directorate, there are approximately 1,067,000 recreational vessels under 15 meters, of which only 189,353 are voluntarily registered.

"A voluntary registry is not sufficient. A mandatory boat register would enable the tracing of vessels back to their owners, thereby helping to reduce the number of abandoned vessels. This would also be a significant measure in reducing littering and pollution, aligning with the 'polluter pays' principle. If a mandatory small craft register is introduced, it will also be possible to introduce mandatory liability insurance," says Hanne Gunnarskog.

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