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Marinas & Small Boat Harbors: Background and Overview
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A marina can be defined as a a facility that rents slips to tenants. Tenants and marina operators may launch boats from marinas, fuel watercraft, store them during the winter or when not in use, and perform vehicle repairs and maintenance. Other services typically conducted at marinas include: cleaning, paint removal, painting, engine maintenance, fueling, storage, winterization, and pumpout stations (sewage). (These services will be explained in the Operations section). Marinas do not include docks for private use or at shipyards, dry docks, or facilities that specialize in rentals of non-motorized vessels such as for canoes, rowboats, paddle boats, or kayaks.

Marina Industry Statistics and Demographics

According to the 1999 US Census Bureau, there were 8,200 marina establishments with 24,016 paid employees, and an annual payroll of $599,112,000. Marinas are typically quite small, with about 50% of the firms employing only 5 to 9 people, the majority of whom are seasonal workers.

Over the past decade, the marina industry has been expanding. Between 1992-1997, the US Census Bureau states that there was a:

  • 26% increase in the number of marina facilities
  • 53% increase in revenues
  • 27 % increase in the number of employees
  • 49% increase in annual payroll
and between 1990-1999, there was a 14% increase in registered boats (US Coast Guard).

Environmental and Safety Considerations

The growth of recreational boating and coastal development in general has led to a growing awareness of the need to protect waterways from contamination. Marinas are generally located on the water's edge (with the exception of dry docks), typically offering no buffer to contain the release of pollutants into waterwaysat and therefore are at risk of polluting their surrounding environment. The services that marinas provide should be carefully monitored and maintained in order to prevent pollutant discharge to water and land.

Some activities at marinas could potentially contribute to air pollution and worker exposure to hazardous materials. Marina owners must take care to minimize airborne contaminants (volatile organic compounds, dust, etc.) and the use of hazardous materials (solvent paints, cleaners, etc.). Likewise, hazardous waste should be managed properly.

Environmental Programs

In order to remedy existing adverse environmental conditions and mitigate future contamination, many states have created incentive-based marina pollution prevention outreach programs, one example being the Clean Marina Program. This program involves states and organizations such as: California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Virginia. Each program contains a coastal nonpoint source management program, an advisory committee, guidebooks, educational outreach (workshops and boat shows), grant funds, and coordinates with other programs. Recognition may include clean marina flags, awards ceremonies, and publishing of participation by state programs. Funding for these programs is provided by: Section 319 Nonpoint Source (NPS) Management Program, Coastal Zone Management Programs, Coastal NPS Programs, Sea Grant Programs, and state grants.

Other environmental partnerships include: Boat US, Marina Environmental Education Foundation (MEEF), Ocean Conservancy (Center for Marine Conservation), States Organization for Boating Access (SOBA), and the National Clean Boating Campaign.


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Hub Last Updated: 1/29/2010