Strangled! Part 2: VOCs, Diesel Emissions, and more!
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
The impact of this could be huge. VOCs are a byproduct of the fiberglass manufacturing process in open tooling or molds, a process currently used by most boatbuilders. The EPA wants to limit the transmission of HAPs using processes called MACTs regulated by BACTs to produce laminates using RTM techniques such as SCRIMP or VEC. You got all that? Translation: The EPA wants to limit transmission of volatile gases (such as styrene) from open molds to the atmosphere. This can be controlled using closed-mold systems presently used by some high-end builders. It will be extremely expensive for mass producers of watercraft to switch to these systems.
Fallout from this type of regulation could include having just a few huge certified fiberglass manufacturing centers located around the country to which all builders would be required to subcontract their fiberglass work. Alternately, laminate production could shift to countries such as Brazil and China that do not have such regulations. Does anyone really know how much the relatively tiny fiberglass boatbuilding industry contributes to the VOC total? Not much, I'll bet.
In order to meet emission guidelines set by the EPA, marine diesel manufacturers are being forced to computerize all diesel engines for cleaner running. Catalytic converters may have to be included in the exhaust system to meet future regulations.
One can confidently install a single straight, mechanical diesel engine in a commercial craft or pleasureboat and feel certain that the vessel will be utterly reliable. A splash of diesel fuel, some compression, and the engine runs. Computerizing these engines makes them infinitely more complicated. Would you attempt to cross an ocean in a single-screw vessel using an electronic diesel? Not without a qualified computer technician aboard! The result will be more cost, more maintenance, and more twin-screw boats. Worse yet, regulations are being proposed to retrofit emission devices on existing diesel engines at a cost of up to 10 grand per engine! If you don't spend the bucks, comrade, you will not be able to use your boat. Having two red-hot catalytic converters that could explode at any time in my engine room will infinitely add to my boating pleasure.
Just to prove I'm not a Libertarian, I admit there are some regulations that, even though they cost money, are worthwhile. For instance, the U.S. Coast Guard is considering a regulation requiring all boats to have ground tackle. This is one of the few proposals that makes any sense at all. Anybody that goes out in a boat without an anchor is a jerk.
Surprisingly, the recreational marine industry is objecting to this on the grounds that--get this now--"it will foster the idea that boating is a dangerous sport!" Using the same convoluted logic, we should do away with the laws requiring life preservers and fire extinguishers aboard. Pure stupidity.
Boating By The Hour
What it all boils down to, friends, is bucks. Any piece of marine legislation winds up costing the boat owner bucks, sometimes big bucks. Nobody needs a boat, and when prices get out of hand, boat owners will move to some other less expensive sport (like chasing women, owning a baseball team or racing cars in Formula One). Boating is already one of the most expensive sports in the world. If you don't believe that, simply take the total amount of money it costs you to use and maintain your boat per year and divide that by the number of hours you use the boat per year. Shocked by the result? I understand that the Boston Red Sox is on the market.
Tom Fexas is a marine engineer and designer of powerboats. His offices are located in Stuart, Florida.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.