Marina Property Risks Need Careful Scrutiny

Importance of Clean marinas

Protection of the general public from injury and damage, and protection of the property of others in a marina’s care, custody, and control, is heavily dependent on the quality and upkeeping of marina property.

That could become even harder as states, localities, and regional organizations become more aggressive in promoting standards for “clean” and “resilient”marinas.

At this time, 26 states participate in voluntary “Clean Marinas” programs started and designed to encourage marinas to create environmentally sound facilities. Participating marinas can earn a designation as a “clean marina” by adopting and adhering to a series of standards for controlling waste and litter, eliminating uncontrolled discharges of fuel and other substances, and instituting regular staff training in environmentally friendly marina management practices.

As of October 2017, there were 303 marinas with a clean marina designation in the Gulf States alone, along with 46 boatyards and 20 waterfront boat retailers. 1

Resiliency is Critical

In addition, there were 18 Gulf State marinas also designated as “resilient” for their ability to withstand storms and catastrophic events and recover quickly. The criteria for resilience were added to the clean marina programs in the mid-2010’s and extend beyond waste management into the siting and construction of marina facilities.

To be “resilient” in the face of natural disasters, marinas need to be designed for abrupt and severe fluctuations in water levels and precipitation, according to a 2015 report from Sea Grant Michigan, one of several university consortia that conduct research on aquatic conditions under the federal government’s Sea Grant program.

For example, the Sea Grant Michigan report recommends the installation of floating docks wherever practical. Not only do PAG E 2 Marina Property Risks Continued floating docks respond more flexibly to buffeting wind and waves, but they maintain a constant vertical distance between the dock and watercraft, reducing falls and injuries from boaters getting in and out of their craft.

On a larger scale, resilient marina programs raise expectations that marinas will expand their breakwaters, enhance protection against“scour”(seabed erosion), and renovate older structures to meet the latest design standards for durability and avoiding environmental damage.

Potential for Regulations

So far, clean and resilient marina programs are promoted as non-regulatory government-industry partnerships that reward voluntary efforts for environmental protection and resource conservation. What starts out as voluntary doesn’t always stay that way, however.

Conte Cicala, an attorney with the firm Clyde & Co. experienced in maritime law, cautioned marina owners in a recent article that “it is prudent to keep an eye on voluntary compliance programs, since they can develop quickly into compulsory programs, complete with fines, penalties and potential civil liability exposure.” 2

As an example, Cicala cites regulations regarding the exchange of ballast water on the open ocean, which originated as voluntary guidelines. He suggests that clean and resilient marina standards have the same potential to become...