Dispersants: Bad for Boats


This week, we’re getting the word out about a significant new concern for anyone operating a boat in the vicinity of the oil spill, especially those involved in the cleanup. It turns out, dispersants used to break down the oil can also break down boats.

Below is a press release about this emerging issue, but it’s important to realize that we believe these dispersant chemicals can attack paint and hull materials, both immediately and over time. They eat through hulls, both PVC and metallic, and may cause unseen below-the-water-line damage to shafts, propellers, cutlass bearing and rudders.

Please feel free to forward the release to anyone who might need to know about the problem.


Recreational and commercial boat operators, as well as Marinas, from Texas to Florida, should be concerned about the damage caused to boats by oil and dispersants in the Gulf Waters from the BP DEEPWATER HORIZON oil catastrophe, and consider documenting their damages and filing a claim.

“The potential damage to any vessel that came in contact with the contaminated water, whether from oil or dispersants, is real and unless addressed, will continue doing damage to boat interiors and exteriors,” said Attorney Stuart Smith, Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery, which represents the United Commercial Fishermen’s Association among others. “The potential damage is cause for real safety concerns.”

Whether the oil or the dispersant, AAC Marine Surveyor Captain Arlen Lenier, MMS/AMS said to consider these areas as it concerns your boat:

  • Exterior Hull and Bottom: Spill oil and dispersants will attack paint and hull materials, both immediately and residually; eat through hulls, both PVC and metallic; and cause unseen below-the-water-line damage to shafts, propellers, cutlass bearing, rudders as well as the hull itself.
  • Topside Deck Equipment: Examine winches, deck machinery, pumps, hoses, piping, lines, cleats, booms, electrical connections, backing plates as well as topside paint and any associated accessories.
  • Engines, Below deck spaces holds: Chemicals flowing through engines, pumps, hoses and transmissions will eventually weaken every component they come in contact and could cause cataclysmic failure of AC and DC systems, steering systems, bilge pumps, hoses, piping, wiring, dewatering equipment, auxiliary machinery crews accommodations as well as the basic structure and integrity of bulkheads and structures.
  • Helm, Antennas and Personnel: Consider the health impacts on exposed crew members, as by-products from the spill compounds are known carcinogens. Marine electronics may be affected by unseen fumes as well as throttles, clutches, controls, wiring and antennas. Your emergency communications systems may be impaired.

“We are advising boat owners and marinas to do complete and thorough inspections of all fluids, NDT testing of vessels either by thermal image or audio gauge, and a complete crew interview to document even minor breakdowns that may have happened in spill waters,” said Attorney Smith.

Boat and boat supply manufacturers have issued their own warnings about moving vessels through contaminated Gulf waters, said Captain Lenier, and owners should consult them for their issued advisories.


AAC Marine Group, Inc.
Captain Leiner, AMS/MMS
2333 Knoll Avenue North~Palm Harbor, Florida 34683
Main Office (727) 647-7112~FAX (727) 784-2945

Member ABYC / SNAME / Boat US Exchange/ IAMI / NAVTECH Certified
Commercial Fishing Boat, Accident and Fraud Investigation Certified,
CE Certified (Polish Registrar of Shipping)

FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.smithstag.com or www.gulfoildisasterrecovery.com

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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