Since the Ministry of Defence teams stopped collecting out of date flares from MCA stations in 2009 there have been several attempts to fill the void. Despite considerable funds being expended in the establishment of these government led schemes the appetite for tax payer funded waste disposal in this area is very much lacking. The number of available locations around the UK for safe and compliant flare disposal is on the decline and whilst a number of manufacturers are trying to assist by taking in old flares when new ones are purchased, this doesn't account for the many different flares from a broad range of suppliers and countries needing to be disposed of.
Ramora UK, a company in the field of explosives disposal, has identified the need for a service that not only provides nationwide coverage but is also free at the point of use by leisure boat users. The proposed service will see a large number of collection points established across the entire country in order to alleviate many of the issues currently facing boat users.
The Proposed Locations are aimed at providing a fair spread of access to the service by as many of those needing to access it as possible. There is also provision made for those living inland as it is recognised that many travel to the coast in order to utilise their boats. The locations proposed include:
1. Hampshire (East)
2. Hampshire West/Dorset East
3. Isle of Wight
5. Devon (South)
6. Cornwall (West)
7. Cornwall North/North Devon Border
8. Bristol Area
9. South Wales (Glamorgan/Carmarthenshire)
10. North Wales
12. Northern Ireland
18. Yorkshire (East)
19. Midlands (inland site)
21. Thames/London East
In addition to the static sites, a total of 20 'amnesty' or collection days will be scheduled during each year spread across the UK. These will include islands where there is a sizeable leisure boating community who can benefit.
This service is designed to achieve the following key aims:
- Be Free of Charge to members of the public (subject to the amount raised this could be extended to the commercial sector or subsidise commercial disposal routes only after the public solution is in place)
- Establish a viable network of drop off points across the UK
- Supplement the drop off points with amnesties in areas with less need for a static site (some islands)
- Ensure each site and amnesty is compliant with all safety and environmental requirements
- Reduce the travelling time people currently need to undergo to drop off distress flares
- Not impose a limit on the number of flares being dropped by leisure users/members of the public
- Provide sites that are accessible, without the need to book in advance, during set opening hours
- Guarantee the service delivery for not less than 4 years
- Undertake Research & Development into a more sustainable solution to the flare disposal solution alongside options for environmentally friendly disposal processes for such items
The scheme is designed primarily for the removal of out of date distress flares but the impact will prove beneficial to a range of individuals and groups. Leisure boat owners (by providing a managed solution across all areas for the disposal of distress flares) will be the key beneficiary but also charities such as those utilising flares for rescue purposes will also be able to use the service free of charge. In addition, marinas and Boatyards should see a reduction in the number of flares being dumped on their sites. Currently the police and fire services also deal with a large number of dumped or confiscated flares and whilst this project should assist in reducing the numbers encountered any calls for assistance from an emergency service will be delivered free of charge.
The risks associated with out of date flares are well known and whilst a number of people will suggest "they are not dangerous" or "are good for longer periods than stated by the manufacturer" the evidence stacks against that view. There are documented cases of professional mariners being injured by flares and several 'accidental' activations have occurred. The fact remains that all distress flares are classed as explosives and should be handled, stored and disposed of in accordance with the relevant legislation. The increasing incidence of abandoned flares only serves to elevate the risks to those who may come into contact with the items and a managed, compliant and proven solution will have a marked and profound impact on the levels of exposure.
in order for the project to succeed it will need significant support from the crowd funding community. With more than 900,000 boat users across the UK and a large proportion holding distress flares it would only need a relatively small percentage to get behind it and raise the necessary funds and establish a long lasting solution.
Further details are available at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/free-distress-flare-disposal-service
Specialist explosive disposal company providing innovative and compliant solutions to a wide range of clients across the UK.
Ramora UK have been involved with explosives and particularly pyrotechnics (marine distress flares and fireworks) since 2005. During this time we have undertaken commercial disposals across the entire UK and islands, and provided free of charge amnesty events in a number of regions. Specifically, we have undertaken a number of flare amnesty events, on an annual basis, in Hampshire, Dorset, Sussex and Kent over the past 4 years. The overwhelming response from those off dropping flares into us is one of gratitude but also questioning why there isn't a wider solution which doesn't involve driving miles with dangerous flares etc. Equally, many boaters question why they should pay for the disposal. Whilst we have no wish to debate the payment issue, it is clear that those who do not wish to pay to dispose of their flares will either keep them for longer than they should, or worse, they will find a potentially less compliant disposal route.